Sex-reassignment surgery and US companies

Many of us do not think of large US financial institutions as hotbeds of progressive social change.   We all know that the rush over the last decade to form “business ethics” courses was in response to a very visible need.  And many of us worry that the plight of the planet and its people is tied  to the practices of these large companies.

Still, we also think that progressive social practices just work better.  If that’s so, wouldn’t these companies get on board pretty quickly?  Indeed.

From the NY Times:

Goldman Sachs bankers and traders enjoy famously big bonuses and, this year, a little extra job security thanks to their firm’s ability to steer clear of the worst effects of the subprime mortgage debacle.

Now, they can add something else to the list of reasons why life is great at Goldman: free sex-change surgery.

… A recent survey of more than 1,000 employers conducted by the Human Rights Campaign found that many banks, law firms and other large companies have added at least partial coverage of transgender treatments to their medical plans.

Bank of America, Wachovia and Deutsche Bank are among the firms who now cover such treatments to some extent, said. Goldman and Bank of America will cover the cost of the actual operation. At Wachovia, sex reassignment surgery is considered elective, and so the operation is not covered but related prescriptions and post-operative counseling are.

But here comes the kicker; can you imagine many philosophy departments professing the goals in the first para below, or even considering the link made in the second?

Goldman’s enhanced medical coverage is part of the firm’s efforts to “recruit and retain a more diverse workforce,” a Goldman spokesperson told Fortune.

The expanded coverage may cost employers a bit more in the short term, but it’s a small price to pay to attract and keep top talent, Pauline Park, chair of the New York Association for Gender Rights Advocacy, told Fortune. “[A]ny employer that does not clearly include gender identity in their employment policies may send a signal that they’re not supportive,” she said.