Lord Browne calls for more gay business people to come out

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A businessman who was publically outed by a Sunday newspaper has called for more gay people in business to be open about their sexuality.

Lord Browne, who was revealed as gay by The Mail on Sunday in 2007, said in an interview with the BBC that it was important for gay people to have role models “at the top levels of business”.

“People join businesses when they see people like themselves doing well,” he continued. “So if a gay person comes into business and see no gay people at the top levels of business, they will probably go elsewhere.

“We need more of those role models. More people to come out, more people to be successful and to be openly gay as well.”

The peer, formerly head of BP, had concealed his sexuality for more than fifty years. However, in January 2007 he received a call from the Mail on Sunday, telling him they were about to publish a ‘kiss and tell’ by a former Brazilian escort, Jeff Chevalier who he had been in a relationship with for three years.

In an attempt to quash the story he applied for an injunction – but lied to his lawyers about where the pair had met, saying they had met jogging in Battersea park. They had in fact met on a gay escort website.

Although he quickly retracted the lie, the injunction was quashed and the paper reported he had lied in court documents. He resigned.

The businessman has since bounced back from the scandal, quickly joining the board of Foster + Partner Architects. He also wrote a book, The Glass Closet, telling his story of being gay in business.

Speaking ahead of its publication he said he wrote it because “I wouldn’t want anyone else to go through what I went through.”

“You had to blend in, be chameleon-like, so no one would notice your private life. But you could be noticed in your work life, so you sublimated a lot into that. People say minorities have to overachieve, and I guess I did.”

When asked if there were other gay people in business yet to come out, the peer said they were “probably in the closet somewhere”.

Lord Browne calls for more gay business people to come outHe pointed to Tim Cook, CEO of Apple as the only openly gay CEO in the world’s top 500 companies – though statistically, you would expect more.

“Ten years ago I thought [talking like this} would be out of the question,” he added, stressing he had always felt his business and personal life were separate.

A recent study also found that male bosses were less likely to hire LGB employees than their female counterparts.

As part of the study, researchers at the university had participants pick hire from two equally-qualified applicants. One CV identified the applicant as part of the ‘Los Angeles Gay Business Professionals’ group, while the other only identified the ‘Los Angeles Business Professionals’ group.

They found that male bosses were more likely to pick the straight job applicants over equally-qualified gay and lesbian counterparts.