University of Phoenix continues to break through inequality barriers
This article is featured in the University’s 2019 Academic Annual Report. Click here to view the report in its entirety.
University of Phoenix has received a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Corporate Equality Index for 2020, the only college or university to ever receive the designation. University of Phoenix also received a perfect score in 2018 and 2019.
The Equality Index rates workplaces based on their commitment to LGBTQ equality and inclusion. The score reflects the University’s internal commitment to providing equal access in employment, education and opportunity to all.
Vice President of Human Resources Julie Fink said that the designation sends a very clear message to students, faculty, alumni, employees and the public that UOPX values diversity and inclusion and does not tolerate discrimination of any kind, relating to employees as well as students.
“Our LGBT employees are proud to work for an institution that so publicly supports them and is not afraid to say so,” Fink said. “For employees and students, this is a statement of who we are as a University and what we stand for.”
The HRC Corporate Equality Index is revered as the “gold standard” and benchmarks LGBT workplace equality through four sets of criteria:
- Does the corporation offer LGBT protections in the workplace?
- Does the corporation offer inclusive benefit packages: e.g. same-sex spousal or domestic partnerships and transgender individuals?
- Does the corporation support an inclusive culture and show social corporate responsibility?
- Has there been any recent display of public discrimination noted on corporate records?
As the institution that first recognized the need to provide education opportunities for working adults in a nontraditional way, being a leader is in our DNA,
— Julie Fink
VP Human Resources, University of Phoenix
Fink said that University of Phoenix prides itself on leading rather than following or remaining stagnant, and this designation shows that in practice.
“As the institution that first recognized the need to provide educational opportunities for working adults in a non-traditional way, being a leader is in our DNA,” she said.
Fink noted that UOPX has one of the most diverse student populations of any university: 60 percent are underrepresented minorities, 67 percent have dependents at home, 60 percent are first-generation college students and 67 percent are over 30 years old. Equal access to education by instructors who have experience in their field they teach has been one of the UOPX standards for over 44 years.
The University continues to work to establish an atmosphere of inclusion. Fink said that employee diversity defined is everything that makes a person unique and, in addition to the traditional categories, UOPX looks for employees and faculty that have different work experience, not just in the education sector, but also with different viewpoints, the ability to think outside the box and willingness to be innovative.
“We are constantly looking for new thoughts, ideas and practices to build a better workplace and University,” Fink said.
One of those ideas was for the creation of Employee Resource Groups, or ERGs, the first of which was Allies of Pride. The number of ERGs has grown to five, all of which Fink said are supported by leadership through allocated time for employees to attend ERG events. In addition, UOPX sponsors many diversity, inclusion and equality organizations and events.
Fink said that the University plans to continue to push the limits of inclusion, especially since the criteria for the index continues to become more rigorous. Perfect successive scores highlight the University’s willingness to review practices to make changes or adapt to evolving nondiscrimination views.
For Fink, the perfect score on the index represents one of three things that stand out to her as the most significant achievements of UOPX’s commitment to inclusion. The second is a letter sent to UOPX’s chief operating officer by an employee stating that the institution’s commitment to ERGs and her involvement has been the most incredible experience she’s had in the past 8 months in regard to making connections both internally and outside of the company. Her experience inspired her to do more on a broader level by making connections to surrounding tribal and Hispanic communities.
The third is one Fink said still gives her goosebumps almost three years later. An employee approached the Allies of Pride ERG booth and stated that she had been an in-the-closet employee for more than 15 years. The establishment of Allies of Pride signaled to her, very publicly, that the University completely accepted and supported her.
When people can be themselves openly, they find that their time can be even better served in a productive manner. Worrying about not sharing too much about yourself can be draining and time-consuming. Fink said by removing this from the equation, the University benefits from employees’ overall happiness.
“The ability to work every day in an inclusive environment has been the only accepted norm for UOPX,” Fink said.
For more information regarding the University’s current initiatives in place driving inclusion, click the following link: https://www.hrc.org/campaigns/corporate-equality-index
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