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Study Shows Businesses Run By LGBTQ People Are More Successful

Businesses do better with LGBTQ people in upper management -- but the rainbow ceiling is still very much a thing.

Marilyn Drew Necci | August 22, 2018

It’s official — companies do better when people from the LGBTQ community hold managerial positions within them. This was the finding of a recent survey by the Wisconsin LGBT Chamber Of Commerce, which surveyed 88 different companies to arrive at these results.

“This study supports what we have been saying for years,” Wisconsin LGBT Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Jason Rae told Urban Milwaukee. “Having LGBT people in leadership positions, whether it as a CEO, a business owner, a part of senior management, or on the Board of Directors, is good for a business’s bottom line.”

The report found that, even though “no differences were found between respondents with one or more LGBT people in senior leadership positions and those without LGBT people in senior leadership positions in terms of the number of LGBT supportive workplace policies and practices,” organizations “that report having one or more LGBT people in senior leadership positions also report a variety of favorable outcomes compared to organizations with no LGBT people in senior leadership positions.” So it’s not just having pro-LGBTQ policies that matters — actual employment of LGBTQ people in high-level positions is what seems to make the difference.

Rae stressed the necessity of businesses going beyond mere hiring of LGBTQ employees at lower levels of the workforce. “Simply put, diversity is good for business,” he told Urban Milwaukee. “This study helps reinforce our commitment to helping break the rainbow ceiling.”

That “rainbow ceiling” is a real thing — earlier this year, German research firm IZA Institute of Labor Economics released a massive survey of 650,000 UK adults that found “clear evidence that gay men face glass ceilings” when attempting to reach senior positions within corporations. The study found “Gay men are significantly less likely than comparable heterosexual men to be in the highest-level managerial positions that come with higher status and pay,” and, significantly, that this trend was “due to discrimination.” Gay men were shown to outperform straight colleagues in lower management roles, but were still far less likely to receive promotions to upper management.

There are some high-profile exceptions in today’s corpoarate world, Apple CEO Tim Cook being the most notable. Cook, who has held his position since 2011, came out in 2014, becoming the first openly gay CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Qantas Airways CEO Alan Joyce has also come out as gay in recent years, and Martine Rothblatt, who is CEO of biotech company United Therapeutics as well as the creator of Sirius XM Satellite Radio, has been openly transgender since 1994 (but she’s kind of in a class by herself).

It took until 2018 for Fortune 500 companies to promote openly gay employees into top positions after they were already out. 2018 has seen Jim Fitterling promoted to CEO of Dow Chemical, and Beth Ford become the first openly-lesbian CEO of a Fortune 500 company as she was promoted to the top spot at food & agriculture firm Land O’ Lakes.

The rainbow ceiling is thankfully showing a few tiny cracks, but clearly we still have a long way to go. Ultimately, though, businesses would be wise to give more promotional consideration to LGBTQ people. In the words of Jason Rae, “When LGBT people are present in leadership roles, businesses do better.”