L.G.B.T. activists and their supporters gather in support of transgender people on the steps of New York City Hall, October 24, 2018 in New York City.
Drew Angerer | Getty Images
Just over a year ago, nearly 200 CEOs of the country's most influential companies came together as part of the Business Roundtable to set a new standard for companies. At the time, I applauded when the committee announced the "modernized principles" that managers should commit to in order to balance the needs of shareholders with customers, employees, suppliers and communities and "deliver value to them all."
This is a significant departure from the profit-centric philosophy that came before. For decades, Nobel laureate Milton Friedman's view was that the role of the business is "to use resources and participate in activities designed to increase profits ….". But today's environment, as Business Roundtable acknowledged, requires a different approach. A more inclusive approach. And as business leaders, it is clear that we can no longer be on the sidelines.
From the perspective of LGBTQ + law practice, I am proud that we have not done so. Citi, along with hundreds of companies, including some of America's most famous companies, signed an amicus brief in the recent Supreme Court case, urging the court to find that federal law prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. And during June, the court banned such discrimination in the workplace ̵
Grim discrimination statistics
Despite this progress, LGBTQ + people continue to face fierce challenges. A recent study by the Center for American Progress revealed that more than 1 in 3 LGBTQ Americans faced discrimination in the past year, including more than 3 in 5 transgender Americans. And discrimination has real consequences. A survey by the National Center for Transgender Equality showed that a third of transgender people reported harassment or refusal of service after showing ID with a name or gender marker that did not match their appearance. In these cases, the answer to what is in a name is everything.
When I joined Citi as Head of US Branded Cards earlier this year and learned about these statistics as part of an upcoming Mastercard initiative to offer transgender and non-binary customers the opportunity to use the chosen first name on our credit cards , I was deeply moved. How devalued I would feel if I was not recognized by my name, I thought, and it's like a cisgender woman who does not face almost the same extensive problems as transgender people.
A Call to Action  As one of the largest credit card issuers in the country, we had a chance to promote this conversation, raise awareness of a problem that requires it, and offer a solution to promote recognition, acceptance and empowerment. So this initiative quickly became a rallying cry across all levels of the business. From developing an intricate backend process that includes a customer's chosen name and legal name on the account to ensure a secure customer experience, to designing and conducting empathy training for thousands of customer service agents, the effort went beyond one person or department. And I'm proud to say that since its launch in October, we've seen over 5,000 customers update their cards with their chosen first name.
Mikail (they) are featured in Citi's advertising campaign for their chosen name feature, which offers transgender and non-binary customers the opportunity to use the chosen name on credit cards.
This may seem like a small step, but small steps often have too great an impact. I was reminded of this when, shortly after we launched the initiative, we received a note on Facebook from one of our customers saying: "I wish there was something like this when I started the transition. This will remove one of the many the worries we all had when we introduced our true selves to the world. "Another customer on Twitter remarked:" Our identity is a sub-origin story, sub-choice, with choices often limited. @Citi collaborates with @Mastercard will offer #transgender & #nonbinary people #TrueName – the right to use the chosen name on a qualified credit card. Fantastic! "
Businesses can not afford to be spectators. By helping to build more just and inclusive cultures, we will do good by doing good. Not only will companies attract the best talent, but they will cultivate satisfied and loyal customers who will increasingly only do business with brands that engage in social issues.
As leaders, we must stand up and fight for initiatives that can drive progress in a meaningful way. Doing good must be ingrained in our business models and go beyond financial support to include donating time, talent and resources to make a real difference. We all have a responsibility to embody Business Roundtable's call to put purpose first and at the center and align practice with principles.
And if we are lucky, we also learn important lessons along the way; First of all, I will never think of a name in the same way again.
—By Pam Habner, Head of U.S. Branded Cards, Citi