Lord Browne, the former chief executive of BP, said this week that the business world must do more to end anti-LGBT discrimination.
Browne, speaking at the launch of Connect Out, an LGBT network set up by engineering and design consultants Arup, said that he believes the business world has an anti-gay atmosphere.
“My sense is that the business world remains more intolerant of homosexuality than other worlds such as the legal profession, the media and the visual arts–I am one of a handful of publicly gay people to have run a FTSE 100 company.
“In some industries, the situation is particularly bad. Among the many people I know in private equity, where I now work, fewer than 1% are openly gay.”
He therefore wants “leaders in companies, and not just in human resources” to “think about inclusion in every decision they take”. He says: “It comes down to a simple maxim – don’t do anything that excludes people.”
Speaking on how it felt for him to hide his sexuality during his 41-year career at BP, Lord Browne said:
“Hiding my sexuality did make me unhappy and, in the end, it didn’t work. People guessed, and it was only a matter of time before it came out. I realise now that the people we dealt with certainly knew I was gay. Putin had files on everybody. But at the time I was trapped by the fear of exposure.”
Browne quit his position as BP’s chief executive in painful circumstances after being forced to admit that he had misled a court relating to circumstances in which he met his former boyfriend. This, he told a BBC interviewer, was symptomatic of the way in which he had become so accustomed to lying about his sexuality–though he was clear that this in no way excused his error in judgement.
Browne went on to say that he believes the UK, and the UK’s business sector in particular, could play a key role in helping to decriminalize homosexuality abroad and in fostering a tolerant and even gay-affirming environment in countries that are currently hostile to LGBT identity.
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