There Aren’t Enough Queer Business Leaders, And That’s A Problem

More Queer Business Leaders, Please

Across the globe, a growing number of professionals, business leaders, and politicians think it’s important for companies to create more queer-friendly policies and procedures to attract top talent and win more loyal customers, but few know who will take the lead. We know who the leader is and the leader is us, more queer business leaders.

The value of diversity and inclusion

In business, queer diversity and inclusion (QD&I) for the sake of QD&I isn’t enough. We’re talking business, after all, and businesses are fundamentally in the business of making money. Businesses may altruistically believe in being valuable members of their communities and improving the lives of their customers and employees, but if they don’t turn a profit, they won’t stay open. If good companies don’t remain in business, all their altruistic initiatives, and community betterment end.

Because of the market value of QD&I, however, The Harvard Business Review reported in February 2016 that the topic of QD&I made it on the agenda at the Davos World Economic Forum in 2016. Getting on the Davos agenda is no small feat and underscores the growing support for QD&I because an increasing number of studies show:

  • queer-friendly businesses attract the best overall talent
  • queer-friendly businesses win the loyalty of discerning consumers
  • queer-friendly businesses win the loyalty of discerning consumers
  • queer-friendly employers attract top queer talent that helps them better target a demographic with $3.7 trillion in global disposable income

To further support the business value of QD&I, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) survey, released in conjunction with its second annual global Pride & Prejudice Summit: Business as a catalyst for change, cited a Credit Suisse study that showed the stock performance of queer-friendly companies performed better than the average.

“Our research shows that executives in companies with openly LGBT advocates show greater desire to invest in programs that help raise the visibility of LGBT people up and down the organization,” said Michael Gold, editor at The Economist Intelligence Unit. “Just the simple act of publicly declaring oneself LGBT can have a big effect on others in the company.” 

'Just the simple act of publicly declaring oneself LGBT can have a big effect on others in the company.'Click To Tweet

The EIU Pride & Prejudice Survey also showed that even while a growing percentage of employees think it’s necessary that businesses become friendlier towards queer employees and consumers, 40% of junior employees and 16% of senior executives didn’t know who would lead QD&I for their companies.

Step out and step up to become queer business leaders

Now is the time for queer people to both step out and step up and become the queer business leaders we need. Click To TweetDespite the growing concerns with the populist wave spreading across the west, the queer community, especially in the U.S., has made significant progress in recent years. With that progress comes greater responsibility.

In 1978, Harvey Milk instructed “Gay brothers and sisters, you must come out. Come out to your parents. Come out to your relatives. Come out to your friends. Come out to your neighbors.” It’s no longer enough for queer people to come out as LGBT to friends and family, it’s time for us to come out as valuable contributors and leaders to our broader communities and our industries.

Media and popular culture are apt to pigeonhole us with a few valuable qualities in a select group of industries. These stereotypes may be why EIU’s Pride & Prejudice Survey also showed that only 37% of millennials believe there’s a potential return-on-investment (ROI) in queer-friendly policies and procedures and even fewer, 29%, of the broader population of professionals does.

We’re more than our stereotypes. We’re doctors and lawyers. We’re scientists and engineers. We’re teachers and agriculturalists. We’re mathematicians and mechanics. We’re politicians and entrepreneurs. We’re artists and business leaders.

Therefore, rather than waiting to see which business executive will take the lead for QD&I in the business world, it’s time for queer people to take the lead and implement QD&I ourselves through queer business leadership. Rather than waiting for more millennials to join the c-suites and apply QD&I, it’s time we accede to the c-suite and implement it ourselves.

How do we do this?

Lead ourselves, then lead business

We do this by expecting more of ourselves and each other. We shift our focus from looking and feeling fabulous to doing and being fabulous. We look beyond what happened to us yesterday and crush our limiting beliefs of today. We leverage the value we bring to diverse industries to become leaders of our industries.

There are three reasons why we must take charge of our destiny. First, we can’t stay on the slow and circuitous path to progress. Slow progress is no progress for many. Second, we can’t let others determine what QD&I looks like for us. We may not like the results. We must become the business leaders we need. Third, to get society to see us as more than our sexual orientations and gender identities, we must prove that we’re much more than our sexual orientations and gender identities.

The best way to make these changes is to be change agents, and the best way to be change agents is to lead the agency.Click To Tweet Leading the agency is more than marches and protests. It’s enhancing ROI and innovation. It’s displaying strength of character and leadership, and, it’s challenging business and social norms.

Particularly in the U.S., the queer community has been given a hand up from many of our allies, and now we must step up further. It’s our time and our duty to show through our queer business leadership that we are and always have been pillars in industries.

So, while business leaders and junior staff look for leaders to implement QD&I, it’s time we in the queer community become those leaders.

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Comment List

  • Brent 02 / 06 / 2017 Reply

    Hi John,

    Wow! You and David are a powerhouse couple. Just discovered you on Twitter this week. (I’ll be a-tweeting this 😉

    Anyway – on topic shall we. I wish there were more queer people in higher management. The best managers I ever had were queer.

    When I was a young 22 year old working in the West End of Vancouver (English Bay) I was given a job as a pizza cook right beside a popular restaurant called Hamburger Mary’s – which I knew was a queer-owned business.

    I soon found out that my boss, my manager, and most of the staff (except for one delivery boy) were also queer!

    But I’m straight. I didn’t have any problem with it but I thought everyone else working there would.

    I was worried that me being a punk kid from Hicksville Northern British Columbia (not a real town), they would think I was some kind of knuckle-dragging homophobe.

    But they didn’t! They were incredible. We were a real team and I know why – it was the management. Their management skills were excellent in that they only focused on keeping their employees happy and customers happy.

    Later I worked in another restaurant in the West End with a queer management team. They too were great at their jobs.

    It seemed to me they were so good in management because they had true empathy for others. This is the biggest take-away I had from my experiences.

    For years I couldn’t figure out why my wife and I got along so well with most queer people – now I know.

    It’s empathy.

    Don’t get me wrong I ran across some real drunken assholes that were queer as well….but the ratio was tiny.

    Sincerely.

    • David Auten 21 / 06 / 2017 Reply

      Brent, thank you so much for sharing your story with us. We agree that we need more queer business leaders or at least those that are to come out and help lead. There are many young and old that could use a good example to follow and a mentor that they feel comfortable with sharing things they may not otherwise.

      We are happy to hear that you have had such great experiences with other queer people in business. You have a kindred spirit in us as well. 😉

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