This article has been taken from the May 16th, 2014 NY Times online edition and can be read in its entirety on their website here.
Where Are the Gay Chief Executives?
By CLAIRE CAIN MILLER
May 16, 2014
UPDATE: This article has been revised to address the uncertain nature of “openly.” Some readers consider openly to include people who are out in their personal lives but not in the workplace; other readers, and the Human Rights Campaign, count only those who publicly identify themselves as gay.
When the National Football League last week drafted its first openly gay player, Michael Sam, he joined a roster of recent firsts — from the first out nightly news and morning-television anchors, United States senator and pro-basketball player.
But one major realm of society lags behind: corporate America. There are very few openly gay chief executives at the nation’s 1,000 biggest companies.
While some might be out in their personal lives or be widely assumed to be gay, none has spoken publicly about it the way Mr. Sam and other public figures have, which signals how far behind corporate America still is.
It may seem incongruous that corner offices trail, say, the testosterone-fueled world of N.F.L. linebackers in their apparent acceptance of homosexuality. But it serves as a reminder of how, even today, the business world is one of the slowest sectors of society to adopt new norms of acceptance — despite the fact that it keeps out some talented people, the lifeblood of companies.
Just look at the progress of women and minorities in corporate America, decades after the women’s and civil rights movements. Even today, only 48 of the 1,000 largest companies — or 5 percent — have a woman in charge. The first African-American Fortune 500 chief executive ascended to his job a mere 15 years ago.
And gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender executives face separate challenges breaking through the so-called pink ceiling. Their differences are often invisible. In some places, discrimination camouflaged as business strategy — “We’re tolerant, but our customers might not be” — is considered acceptable. Even as the gay rights movement progresses at a faster clip than civil rights movements before it, there is an overwhelming pressure in the workplace to hide one’s sexual orientation.
“If we learned anything from the equal rights movements, it’s that legislation and policies are not enough,” said Deena Fidas, the director of Human Rights Campaign’s workplace equality program. “There has to be an actual culture of inclusion.”
Policies are certainly on the books. Today, 91 percent of Fortune 500 companies include sexual orientation in their nondiscrimination policies, up from 61 percent in 2002, according to Human Rights Campaign. (Federal law does not protect against workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.)