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LGBT at Work

DAVOS – When Apple CEO Tim Cook announced last year that he is gay, I was inundated by emails and telephone messages from executives around the world. As an “out” executive at Ernst & Young (EY), everyone seemed to want to know what I thought this meant for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) inclusion on a global scale. Apple, after all, resides in fifth place on the Fortune 500 list of the world’s largest companies. Was this the end of the “lavender ceiling”?

In his Bloomberg Businessweek article, Cook describes how being gay has affected him: “I’m proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me. Being gay has given me a deeper understanding of what it means to be in the minority and provided a window into the challenges that people in other minority groups deal with every day.”

My own experience of being “different” is multifaceted. Like Cook, being in the minority informed my propensity to be an inclusive leader. Unlike Cook, in addition to being closeted, I was a woman and an introvert, and my politics tended to differ from those of my peers in my heavily male, extrovert-dominated profession. Since coming out in 2011, I have been publicly truer to myself and more authentic with others. That has made me a better leader. And being out in a leadership position in a global organization has provided me a platform to talk openly on a wide range of issues.

There is no question about it: Cook’s announcement was a huge step forward. And international organizations have made considerable progress in LGBT inclusion by relying on external and employee networks and non-discrimination policies.