Why Tim Cook’s Coming Out is a Big Deal

30 Oct

Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, just publicly announced that he is gay.
While he hasn’t been closeted, per se, he felt it important to publicly acknowledge his sexual orientation.

For those of you who wonder why this is a big deal, consider that he is the ONLY CEO in a Fortune 500 company to be out.


In 2014, this may come as a surprise. It probably shouldn’t given what we are learning about unconscious bias.

What does this fact tell us about who we see as CEOs, what our unconscious bias about CEOs is, and what makes someone a good “fit”?

I’m highlighting this because Cook’s statement and Leonid Bershidsky’s article “Does Being Gay Make Tim Cook a Better Boss?” tell us a lot about what inclusion really means both personally and to a company’s bottom line.

Cook states that “being gay has given me a deeper understanding of what it means to be in the minority and provided a window into the challenges that people in other minority groups deal with every day. It’s made me more empathetic, which has led to a richer life.”
While this is great, it’s personal – so it’s fabulous if you work at Apple, but how does it impact the rest of us?

Bershidsky’s article references Kirk Snyder’s book, The G Quotient, that is based on an extensive study of gay managers. One of the things highlighted is that the employees of gay managers (who are out) “asserted that their employees displayed 35 to 60 percent higher job engagement, satisfaction and morale than those managed by straight males.”

This seems to support Cook’s statement above and give us insight into how the personal impacts business. It makes sense that if you’ve experienced barriers, you may be more inclined to make sure your team feels valued and acknowledged for who they are and what they bring.

So while Tim’s coming out may not seem like a big deal. It is.
It will help to broaden the idea of who at CEO is or can be, it has given us the opportunity to have conversations about what it means to be out at work (and the costs if we aren’t), it provides the opportunity to re-examine our commitments to inclusion, and it will give LGBTQ youth one more role model to aspire to – which can make a huge difference in the life of a young person.

If you have 10 minutes, read the Cook’s statement and Bershidsky’s article.

And see more.

Copyright 2014 Annemarie Shrouder
Speaker and facilitator on issues of Diversity & Inclusion


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