Skip to primary navigation Skip to main content

Why Gay CEOs stay quiet

The Wall Street Journal ran an interesting article by Leslie Kwoh called, "A Silence Hangs Over Gay CEOs."

It talks about how being openly gay in the workplace is becoming more acceptable, but looks at why those at the top may choose to keep their sexuality a secret.

There isn't a single openly gay chief executive officer in the Fortune 1000, according to the Human Rights Campaign. (The sole openly gay CEO, former Urban Outfitters Inc. chief Glen Senk, left the company in January and now leads jewelry retailer David Yurman.)

That is not to say there are no gay CEOs in that group, said Kirk Snyder, a diversity consultant who works with Fortune 500 companies and has written several books on being gay in the workplace. From his research and talks with business contacts, he claims to know of at least 10 closeted CEOs.

"It's the fear factor," he said. "They're afraid consumers will boycott if they know the company is led by a gay CEO."

Issues surrounding homosexuality still push very hot buttons. Just look at the recent flap involving Chick-fil-A CEO Dan T. Cathy's remarks against gay marriage. And how about the brouhaha when Ellen Degeneres became spokesperson for JC Penney?

But executives are finding staying closeted is more harmful to their well being than it is helpful to their corporation:

Former BP PLC chief John Browne, who resigned in 2007 amid revelations he had lied in court about how he met his ex-boyfriend, said he remained closeted during his tenure at the oil giant for fear of damaging professional relationships, particularly in the Middle East, where homosexual acts are punishable by death in some countries. "I thought it would affect everything," he said.

Ultimately, he might have lost a client or two, he said, but the suffering took a bigger toll. "You hide things. It's a double life," he said.

comments powered by Disqus