With folks around the world taking to the streets in protest, Pride Month this year arrived at a pivotal moment in history, when we are reminded of the power of unifying our voices to effect sorely needed change.
Virgin Orbit has and always will stand proudly for justice and equality. We are constantly striving to set an example within our industry by embracing and celebrating the diversity of our team, and working to make access to space more inclusive for all people. As a young company, we are far from perfect, with a long road of education, self-reflection and improvement ahead of us. Still, as CEO Dan Hart reaffirmed in our recent Juneteenth blog, we’re committed to doing the work — vocally and visibly.
For companies big and small, one valuable metric is the Human Rights Campaign’s annual Corporate Equality Index, a benchmarking tool on corporate policies and practices related to LGBTQ employees. Generally speaking, very few space companies actively seek a rating from this index. But as a new business — and a Virgin company, for that matter — we needed to make sure we were on the right track.
Our first rating was disappointing (but not completely surprising given our relative immaturity), with Virgin Orbit scoring just a measly 50 out of 100 possible points. Obviously, that just wasn’t up to snuff. It was clear we needed to formally codify our practices into official policies and resources.
In the ensuing months, our team has worked diligently to implement a slew of nondiscrimination policies, recruiting guidelines, employee benefits, training opportunities, and other changes to ensure our practices match our stated values as we grow and mature. We created a new LGBTQ support and empowerment committee, the LOVE (League of Virgin Orbit Equality) Club. We sponsored additional company events like the Long Beach Pride Parade, allyship workshops, and the Long Beach LGBT Center’s Black & Gold Ball. As a result of those efforts and others, our rating in the 2020 Index nearly doubled to 95/100 (see page 94).
This year, we met all criteria with the exception of one: until now, Virgin Orbit has not had a policy in place barring donations to organizations that might discriminate against the LGBTQ community. We certainly don’t donate to those organizations now anyway, but very soon that too will be cemented in our philanthropic guidelines.
And there remains work to be done. This June, guided by our new LOVE (League of Virgin Orbit Equality) Club, we hosted weekly workshops for historical education and allyship building. In light of the Black Lives Matter movement, we expanded those conversations to encompass civil rights and the treatment of underrepresented minority groups more broadly.
The reality is racial discrimination can and does compound with other forms of bias, creating unique challenges for queer people of color. As we work uplift the LGBTQ community, we must also be intentional in our efforts to ensure justice for all of us, not just some of us.
Virgin Orbit will always be mindful of that purpose — not in pursuit of a better “equality score,” but because it’s the right thing to do.
Happy Pride Month.