In full-page ad, brands take stand against trans discrimination in Texas

More than 60 companies signed the letter, including Google, IBM, and media company Bounteous.
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Photo Illustration: Dianna "Mick" McDougall, Photo: Dallas Morning News

· 4 min read

On March 11, a letter signed by more than 60 companies appeared as a full-page ad in the Dallas Morning News, stating that “discrimination is bad for business.” Composed by the Human Rights Campaign, the letter calls on Texas officials (and those around the country) to reject Gov. Greg Abbott’s directive to classify certain pediatric gender-affirming health care procedures as child abuse and investigate familes with transgender children who have undergone them.

“The recent attempt to criminalize a parent for helping their transgender child access medically necessary, age-appropriate healthcare in the state of Texas goes against the values of our companies,” the letter states.

Company signees spanned across industries, from tech (like Google, Apple, and Meta), to retail (H&M and Gap), to media companies and agencies. Digital agency Bounteous was one of them.

While the directive has been temporarily blocked, Bounteous VP of learning and diversity Melinda Ramos told us that any policy that puts their employees or their families at risk will impact the company’s presence in the state. They currently have just under 100 employees working remotely in Texas.

Ramos told us that Bounteous has been considering opening an office “because we want to be able to support our team members who are there with a space that they can go to to meet and to collaborate and innovate.” “If that is not an environment where they can feel safe, then it is certainly something that we would have to pause on and decide whether or not it is something that we want to pursue,”

According to Ramos, the company is currently helping to relocate employees based in Ukraine, and it would not be out of the question to help those in Texas do the same. Of employees with nonbinary children, she said the experience has been “incredibly upsetting” and harmful to their mental health.

Taking a stance

Graham Smith, global LGBTQ+ ERG chair at VMLY&R, which also signed the letter, said the agency decided to speak out publicly on the issue to show their ~200 Texas employees that they support them: “I feel like work is like so much of what we do that I don’t want to add on any pressure or anything else. We want work to just be such a caring, free environment for all of our staff.”

He said he “[hopes] that other states pay attention” to the “discrimination is bad for business” message as other anti-LGBTQ+ measures are proposed, like Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which has companies like Disney in the spotlight. Smith said VMLY&R is tracking the bill’s progress given their office presence in Miami.

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Co-signee Bottle Rocket, a Texas-based consultancy and partner of Ogilvy and WPP, said in a statement shared with Marketing Brew, “We pride ourselves in being inclusive, diverse, and standing up for causes that we collectively feel are right. We also value different perspectives and recognize that with issues such as these, there will be many different viewpoints and passionate beliefs from both sides.”

Ramos emphasized that it’s important for companies to stand up for social causes, even if there are risks. “We live in a capitalistic society, right? So [companies are] still focused on keeping their customers happy and if their customers are not making any sort of statements in any one direction, they probably are wanting to stay on the safer side of that,” she said.

She added that Bounteous has made a conscious effort to work with companies that share their core values, including fellow signees Adobe and Salesforce, as well as new hires. “If you want to attract the best possible talent, if you want to attract the kind of business partners that you really align with, knowing where you stand on the topic is a really important message,” she said.

Duff Stewart, CEO of agency and co-signee GSD&M, agreed. “You’re not going to make yourself competitive and you’re not going to attract the kind of talent that we need in the 21st century when you treat people in a discriminatory fashion,” he told Marketing Brew.

He said the Austin-based company has made a point to offer resources for employees impacted by other Texas legislative decisions, including the SB8 abortion ban and the 2017 “bathroom bill.”

“I would rather have an environment where our employees feel supported and they can…not worry about things like bathroom bills, abortion bills, trans bills, because that just clouds up their lives and makes it very difficult for them to be at peace,” he said. “When they’re in a place where they can do what they love to do, we’re the better for it, our clients are the better for it, and the community is ultimately better for it.”

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