England-based BT Group and IBM topped the International Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce's (IGLCC) list of international gay-friendly corporations.

The group's first annual International Business Equality Index 2009 revealed BT Group as the best international company for gay men and lesbians.

The report was limited to corporations with offices in at least 3 countries and a minimum of ten thousand employees.

Corporations were invited to complete an online survey which covered three main areas: internal policies, policies of suppliers and community involvement.

“The final index score for each corporation is the total of the weighted percentages achieved in each section, with a maximum achievable index score of 100,” the report says.

BT Group, the London headquartered British telecom that operates in more than 43 countries, received the highest score at 78 percent. The company has 111,858 employees worldwide and posted revenues of $34.1 billion in 2008.

“On behalf of BT, I am absolutely delighted with this recognition,” BT CEO Ian Livingston said in a statement. “Diversity must be, and is, at the heart of our business and having the policies and the practices in place to support the LGBT community is essential to our success.”

“BT has been providing same-sex partner benefits to employees since the early 1980s and will continue to look at ways in which we can ensure that our people can be 'who they are' at work without fear of discrimination or prejudice,” Anne Heal, senior champion for sexual orientation at BT, added.

IBM came in a close second with a 76.3 percent score. The Armonk, New York-based technology company operates in 227 countries, employs 398,455 people worldwide and posted revenues of $104 billion last year.

The company is the primary sponsor of the 2009 World Outgames, the nine-day gay and lesbian sports and culture festival that opened in Copenhagen, Denmark Saturday.

The Dow Chemical Company, headquartered in Midland, Michigan, rounded out the top 3 with a 70.6 percent score. The chemical company operates in 58 countries, employs 46,000 people worldwide, and posted revenues of $58.2 billion last year.

While the survey reveals the top international companies committed to LGBT rights, it also suggests gay and lesbian workers remain marginalized in the international workplace.

Authors say nearly half of the companies surveyed do not employ an LGBT diversity manager, openly gay men and lesbians are difficult to find among the ranks of management, and few companies support the LGBT community financially.

In a statement, Pascal Lepine, the secretary general of IGLCC, praised the companies that participated in the survey, then added: “But we must be realistic and say that, even if today we see promise, there is much more work to be done. Far too often we see and hear of gay and lesbian professionals throughout the world that do not have access to basic employee rights and benefits just because of their sexual orientation.”