Susan McManus Fosters GLBT Support at Nationwide

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

Susan McManus had been working at Nationwide for six years when in 1999 the company announced a revolutionary change: It would now offer domestic partner benefits for employees.

That led McManus to make an announcement of her own: She was gay and grateful for the new policy that would now apply to her and her loved ones.

That proclamation started McManus on a "long and rewarding journey" for GLBT respect and support in corporate America, where she says she has had a dedicated and progressive partner in her employer-and in the Columbus business community as a whole.

"There is so much work being done and great examples throughout the business community that involve strategic discussion around diversity-whether it's neighborhoods or ethnic groups, or academic and professional groups," says McManus, vice president of brand management at Nationwide. "They are all part of the local color. It's what makes Columbus a great place, and a great place to do business."

McManus grew up in Bowling Green and went to Wittenberg University. While pursuing a master's degree in statistics from Ohio State University in 1992, she landed a Nationwide internship and stayed at the company to work in market research, customer data analysis and web development.

Although McManus first thought while in college she might be gay, she admits "repressing" those feelings until coming out years later to a mentor at Nationwide. Since then, she has worked with leaders to make the company as supportive of the GLBT community as possible, something that's reflected in its perfect score for eight years running on the Human Rights Campaign's Equality Index, a measure of companies' gay-friendliness.

Evidence of Nationwide's commitment to the GLBT community, says McManus, comes from its public support of the federal Employee Non-Discrimination Act, which would make it illegal to fire someone for being gay. In absence of a vote by Congress, 13 states (Ohio is not among them) have enacted similar legislation.

Nationwide also supported 11 gay pride festivals across the country, including Columbus, where 200 employees marched past banners along High Street showing the company's support of the event.

The company also has gone the extra mile to support its GLBT customers: Nationwide is the first insurance company to create a call center and train agents specifically to deal with domestic partner coverage in the ever-changing gay-marriage and civil-union landscape.

"The bottom line is, it's good for business," McManus says. "Internally, if we can attract and retain the best talent and they happen to be gay, the best and brightest will come here to work for us. If we tailor our product and services to the gay community, they will spend more money with us. It just feels like the right thing to do."

McManus says she hopes other local business leaders will step up to encourage diversity through example and education because it makes sense-not just for Columbus, but also for the bottom line. She cites an April 2012 McKinsey & Company study that shows companies with high levels of women andglobal diversity among executives boast a return on equity 53 percent higher than other companies.

"Leaders need to ensure their company policies are inclusive, go out of their way to attract diverse talent and get engaged with the local diverse communities where they do business," she says.

"To attract the best diverse candidates, companies need to make sure their own house is in order and provide compelling reasons for diverse candidates to work there. Employee offerings like domestic partner benefits, mobile access, flexible work environments, convenient child care and fitness centers are the standard of the best places to work."

Nicole Kraft is a freelance writer.

Reprinted from the September 2012 issue of Columbus C.E.O. Copyright © Columbus C.E.O.