LetterOne Executive Chairman Lord John Browne, who spent four decades with oil company BP, ended his successful 12-year run as CEO in 2007by resigning in disgrace over a scandal regarding his homosexuality.
Last year he published his book “The Glass Closet: Why Coming Out Is Good Business,” part memoir and part call to action for companies to create LGBT-friendly cultures and for LGBT employees to be comfortable with who they are.
Business Insider asked Browne to share his thoughts on the US Supreme Court’s decision on Friday to legalise gay marriage nationwide.
“There is a real sense of inevitability about total equality for LGBT people, and I am delighted that the Supreme Court has advanced that process,” Browne said.
He added that it should serve as inspiration to global corporations: “It is a call to arms for business leaders around the world to redouble their efforts to create inclusive working environments. Society is moving forward; the corporate world must not be left behind.”
In his book, Browne addresses the fight for marriage equality in the West and says that as a gay business leader, his support for the movement is twofold: Not only does he see it as morally just, he sees it as good for corporate performance.
Browne acknowledges that while the legalization of gay marriage obviously does not eradicate existing prejudices, it’s a crucial step to helping homosexual employees feel more comfortable about their identities at work, which enables them to perform better and contribute more to their companies.
He points to a 2013 Center for Talent Innovation report that found that 41% of American LGBT workers remained in the closet at work, and a 2009 Human Rights Campaign report that found that a third of those in the closet at work felt exhausted and distracted from pretending.
Browne writes that judging from his own experience, the fear this secrecy breeds is a mental and physical drain that hinders workers from performing to their fullest potential.
Browne has applauded the efforts of gay business leaders like Tim Cook and straight business leaders like Mark Zuckerberg to make LGBT employees feel welcome and empowered at their companies, and believes that the legalization of gay marriage in the US will compel more executives to follow suit.
“However, the ultimate responsibility for change rests with LGBT employees themselves,” he writes in his book. “The more people who come out and perform well, the easier it will be for others around them to do the same. A leader can encourage an employee to be confident, but only an employee can use that confidence to come out.”
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