Lord Browne: “Homophobia could be holding back gay employees in The City”

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Lord Browne, the former Chief Executive of BP, has said he believes that it is possible gay and lesbian employees are being overlooked for the top jobs at FTSE 100 companies because of homophobia.

In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph, the now openly gay current partner at Riverstone Holdings, said that he thought that gay rights should be considered as important as race or gender.

When asked if he thought homophobia was a problem in The City of London, he said:

“There appear to be no out gay chief executive officers in the top companies listed on the FTSE.

“This cannot be for want of talent. That leaves two explanations: either LGBT candidates are self-selecting away from these positions, or they are not being selected for them.”

When asked what affect his sexuality had on his career, Lord Browne said:

“I don’t know, because I hid it – therein lies the problem.” he said, “I hid it in part because I thought it would damage my career, but it is impossible to tell what actually would have happened.”

“To remedy this [lack of openly gay FTSE CEOs] we need to provide education and role models, and to make LGBT people feel welcome and included in the corporate environment,”

When asked what could positively change the experience of gay employees already working in the world of business, he said:

“More role models in the upper levels of a company; getting behaviour right when it comes to inclusion, not doing things that obviously send signals of exclusion; and educating the leadership on how to do this.”

Lord Browne is due to speak at, Out on the Street Summit, in London on 13 November, which aims to challenge issues affecting LGBT people in businesses, and to support LGBT employees.

Credit Suisse’s UK Chief Executive, James Leigh-Pemberton, also made a comment:

“Both straight and gay bankers have an important part to play. It isn’t acceptable that anyone should be disadvantaged for any reason outside of their performance when trying to move their career forward.”

In 2007, Lord Browne was forced to step down as chief executive of BP after it emerged that he had lied to the High Court about where he met a former lover who was planning to take details of their relationship to the press.

Upon coming out, after spending forty one years at BP, he said that he was doubtful that he would have progressed so much within the company, had he been openly gay.