May has been a hugely significant month for the LGBT business community in the UK.
First, we saw the appointment of the first ever openly 'out' CEO of a FTSE 100 company in Burberry's Christopher Bailey.
And this week we've had the launch of Lord Browne's new book, 'The Glass Closet'. The former BP CEO's excellent memoir addresses the issue of homophobia that still pervades corporations around the world and underscores the immense challenges faced by LGBT employees.
Both developments are encouraging and help pave the way for much needed change in the corporate world, increasing the column inches discussing LGBT rights in the workplace.
This can't come too soon. It is shocking that a recent Gaydar study revealed 43% of gay men have experienced homophobia at work. It is staggering that data from the Williams Institute in the US shows that gay men earn 10% to 32% less than otherwise similar heterosexual men.
It's little wonder then that 62% of Generation Y LGBT graduates at university now go back in the closet when they start their first job. The perception remains for many gay people that it is safer to stay in the closet. Who wants to feel they will be held back in their career because of who they are?
Discrimination of any kind has no place in the workplace, and Lord Browne calls for business to take the lead by setting a clear tone from the top. This is incredibly important. Starting with senior executives, my own organisation works to create a top-down inclusive environment. Trailblazers like Barclays, EY, Google, and IBM are active members and already taking huge leaps forward in their diversity practices.
But, ultimately it is LGBT executives themselves that must lead the change. I firmly believe that we need more positive, public role models. That means people being brave enough to be open about who they are, challenge stereotypes and inspire future Boardroom leaders. As Lord Browne points out in his book, despite the risks involved, self-disclosure is best for employees--and for the businesses that support them.
To this end, last year we created the first ever Top 50 list of LGBT executives. Nominees had to be at the executive level in business (three or four steps from the CEO); a positive and OUT (i.e. visible) role model; and actively contributing to the LGBT agenda.
The response was overwhelming, with HSBC's Antonio Simoes ranked as number one. This year the list has been expanded to become a Top 100. It will also feature inspirational straight allies. So, if you've been inspired by the events of this May, take the time to nominate yourself or someone you admire for inclusion in the Top 100 List.
I believe that through initiatives such as this, we can encourage more people to be authentic leaders and make LGBT diversity in the workplace a non issue within a decade in the UK. Then we can turn our full attention to the 76 countries where it is still illegal to be gay.