Why Coming Out Is Good Business
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An appeal to LGBT workers and corporations about the benefits of inclusion, from the former CEO of a Fortune 500 company.

Riverstone Holdings partner Browne (Seven Elements that Changed the World, 2014, etc.) resigned from BP in 2007 following a scandal that exposed his long-hidden sexuality. Living a double life destroyed his career, and he cautions others not to make his mistake. After a lengthy, needless primer on the history of homosexuality, the author focuses on the sphere of his fellow white-collar professionals; in 2012, there were no openly gay CEOs in the Fortune 500, and (presumably) straight white men held almost 75 percent of all boardroom seats. Brown also reports that an estimated 41 percent of LGBT employees in the United States are in the closet. He believes businesses should seek to employ "the best people, everywhere, on the single criterion of merit” and urges them to demonstrate to employees that coming out will not be "catastroph[ic]…regardless of their sector or the protections in place at their company.” The author glosses over the fact that this will be the case for rank-and-file employees in companies, and countries, hostile to gays. Browne effectively presents both leadership lessons and workers' stories of how the closet has hurt their dignity and careers. An out senior banker at HSBC warns, "[a]t some point if you're not truthful about certain elements of your personal life it becomes a huge liability….People won't trust you and may even use it against you." If this book fails to inspire risk-averse business leaders, it will reassure gay workers that "kowtowing to those who disapprove of your sexuality suggests their comfort is more important than your own. It is not." Browne further urges them to take responsibility: "If a company opens the closet door, it is up to the employee to walk through it.”

Valuable encouragement to closeted workers who can afford to heed the author’s advice.

Pub Date: June 17th, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-06-231697-4
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Harper Business
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 2014


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