Nebraska is losing its competitive edge. That’s my respectfully blunt assessment. As we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses across the nation are reevaluating where they will be headquartered. At the same time, a large segment of the national workforce is re-evaluating where they want to live. We have an opportunity to make Nebraska a top contender for both, but we’re holding ourselves back from economic growth. A lack of comprehensive nondiscrimination protections has made it harder for our company, and others like it, to recruit talent
One fix is clear and simple: We must acknowledge that discrimination helps no one. Today, there are no explicit, comprehensive statewide nondiscrimination protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender people in our state. For those of who don’t identify as LGBTQ, this may not be a priority issue — until it becomes clear the lack of protections are risking our collective future prosperity. I’m on the front lines of recruiting talent to work in Nebraska, and I’ve seen the impact.
In my role at Hudl, a Lincoln-based technology company, I help lead our human resources team for our company of more than 2,300 employees. Our recruitment efforts have been hampered as we see fewer inbound applications for quality, well-compensated jobs. It’s forced us to change the way we source candidates and has become a longer, more expensive process. In other words, it’s not good for business.
Right now, there is a patchwork of protections for LGBTQ people across the country. Some states, like our neighbors in Iowa and Colorado, have full protections for LGBTQ people. Other states have none. Our company was proud to join Nebraska Competes, a nonpartisan coalition of businesses committed to ensuring protections are in place so we can attract the best talent to our state and help grow Nebraska’s economy. We will continue to share our policies and practices with other Nebraska businesses.
But, there’s a lot more to be done. Legislation currently making its way through Congress would fix this and level the playing field for all states. The Equality Act passed in a bipartisan victory in the U.S. House of Representatives. It now awaits a vote in the Senate, where its passage would ensure all states offer equal protections. In doing so, we’d remove a critical barrier — one that is currently limiting Nebraska’s ability to recruit the talent needed in our workforce.
Competition for experienced talent will of course remain fierce, but our state is well positioned to turn things around. All we need is a champion of business to recognize the reality we face and step forward. U.S. Sens. Deb Fischer and Ben Sasse can be those champions. Use this moment as an opportunity to turn Nebraska into a leader among the traditionally conservative-leaning, business-friendly midwestern states. Both can demonstrate that we welcome and protect our LGBTQ friends, neighbors, and co-workers. Supporting the Equality Act would do exactly that.
The Nebraska Tech Collaborative, of which I’m a member, has set ambitious goals of adding 10,000 new technology jobs to the Nebraska economy by 2025. This will not be possible if our state doesn’t ensure basic dignity for all people by putting into place protections from discrimination both inside and outside the workplace. Imagine being told you can’t shop at a favorite store, live in a certain home, or attend a school of your choice because of who you are. That type of discrimination still happens in our state today. A recent study found that more than one in three LGBTQ Americans faced discrimination in the past year and more than half hid a relationship or altered their work life to avoid harassment.
We have all heard the phrase “Nebraska Nice,” used to showcase our state as one with open arms and a smile for all. If we want to live up to that slogan, our actions must match our words. Business and political leaders need to step forward and level the playing field so that Nebraska can truly compete. Our state can’t fully reach its potential without that support. If you care about the long-term economic health of Nebraska, your support of the Equality Act is critical.
Kyle Murphy is vice president of People & Corporate Communications at Hudl in Lincoln.