Catherine Deneuve said “I think anything that has to do with sexuality makes people very interested.”

Author: Rita Molnár 2000; via Wikimedia Commons

I first heard the sexual orientation term “GLBT”used by a guest speaker in November 2011 at the inaugural meeting in Zurich of “AtelierSAP”, a congress for ex-SAP executives which I attended with 100 ex colleagues.

My first thought was that it should refer to a Dutch sandwich “Gouda, Lettuce, Bacon and Tomato” (which I felt was a reasonable combination) when it was used in one of the panel discussions we held, this one on “The Future of Work”. It turned out to be an acronym to describe people who fall into the “Gay, Lesbian, Bi and Transgender” camp, and it came up in the discussion on diversity.

According to the speaker, it appears that the GLBT category represents about 20% of the population and yet very, very few executives who are “openly” GLBTers sit on the boards of Global Fortune 1000 companies, or any other large companies generally.
Obviously there are no statistics on how many board members exist that are secret GLBT adherents, though these numbers, one could assume, are considerably higher.

GLBT History Museum; Author: GKoskovich; via Wikimedia Commons

Despite being the forum moderator which meant I was supposed to keep an unbiased and non-partisan position I just couldn’t hold myself back and felt that I had to wade into the discussion.
I didn’t struggle with any part of the idea that GLBTers should be senior executives or sit on boards, as I have long believed that most boards are pretty ineffective and could therefore do with some serious help so why disqualify 20% of possible candidates (See “Why many company boards are ineffective” posted July 4, 2011), but I did struggle with the idea that these people could only be considered legitimate when their sexual preferences were out in the open.

In my 45 year career I have interviewed hundreds of candidates for a variety of different roles, and I have never actually considered asking anyone about their sexual orientation … not only because I don’t care about it, but also because it is no concern of mine as it has absolutely no relevance to their ability to do the job, and that is all that I have ever considered. At the same time I have never expected interviewees to suddenly make announcements like “… by the way I am a heterosexual” or “… my wife and I belong to a swinger’s club”.

Author: Martin Strachoň / Wikimedia Commons

I also don’t delve into their marital status or their parenting as whilst these may give me some clues to their sexual orientation, even this is not 100% accurate as I have homosexual friends who in their past have had conventional marriages and have children that they remain extremely close to, despite their subsequent change of sides.

What does any of it have to do with anyone else ?

In my personal life I do not expect my heterosexual friends to tell me about their sex-lives, even though I do have some friends who not only seem to remember their love making bouts, but have actually graded them to a point where they can list their Top-10 in the same way that I can do with restaurants. Whilst this seems to be critically important to them, I actually find it tedious and irrelevant.

Similarly, I have absolutely no expectation or desire for GLBTers to tell me about their sex lives.
However, I do totally understand that there are people and companies out there that may make it hard for GLBT members to advance in their careers, and that have a glass ceiling for them which can be as impenetrable as that for women.

This makes no sense to me at all !

When we are so desperate for competent managers (see “Business leadership isn’t changing quickly enough” posted October 10, 2011) why would we disqualify people based on either their sex or what they do with their sex lives in their own time ? I am sure that there are successful male senior executives out there who secretly wear women’s clothes, wear lacy underwear under their pinstripe suits, pop the occasional satsuma in their mouth or run naked through their hobby farm once a month baying at the full moon.I am also as sure of the fact that there are many female senior executives who have their own versions of sexual kinks. Most of us do !

For heterosexuals, forgiveness for “sexual kinks” is always easier, and sometimes can even elicit admiration. I know of one highly successful CEO/Founder whose company allocates a sizeable amount of money every year budgeted for defence and settlement of his sexual harassment suits, and many men see this as just being an acceptable part of his overall aggressiveness and drive.

What a load of bollocks !

Why is it so easy to accept that senior executives can have strong and sometimes different secret sexual habits, but find it hard to accept senior executives if they decide that their sexual differences should not need to be hidden, whatever they are and when they are legal, victimless and a matter of self-choice ?
The only acceptable criteria should be whether they can do the job well.
After all, surely the best and most desirable sexual preference should be “often”.

As was said by English stage actress Mrs. Patrick Campbell (1865-1940) “Does it really matter what affectionate people do, so long as they don’t do it in the streets and frighten the horses”.

Mrs. Patrick Campbell; via Wikimedia Commons



  1. Ivan Gomez says:

    Hi Les, I have been very much enjoying your blog, material and thoughts. Thank you !!!
    Whilst there is no doubt that the subject of sexual discrimination is a valid one – surely, its been done to death… Whilst the GLBT is admitedly a new spin on it, it seems simply a more detailed and explicit way of sensationalizing the same discourse… I think all would agree that sexual discrimination of any type is wrong – period.
    I was interested in the title of the session at which this topic was raised: The Future of Work and also that it came up in a session dealing with diversity.
    To this end, what a shame that the opportunity to deal with a real positive opportunity and impact to the broader society seems to not have been taken: that of how and what companies and executives running them should be doing towards inclusion of other human beings and fellow society members with special needs and disabilities – many of whom have tremendous value add and economic utility to provide.
    Without fail, most all of the folk at the congress would have either been or are, employed or run companies in industries where these members of society traditionally do not even get a look in at the entry level….
    So yes, by all means – lets keep highlighting the wrong of sexual discrimination at the top end of management and its ultimately negative economic impact to value creation for the shareholder – but equally, lets also concern ourselves with discrimination and responsibility to create equity for all in society, at all levels – including those that are for the main part ‘invisible’ and whom also ‘were born that way’….
    Surely, all of us can be challenged to think about discrimination in this sense a little more, especially those at a congress whom have comparatively – been blessed with so much opportunity. Maybe a thought for the member leading The Future of Work and Diversity at next year’s congress as part of AtelierSAP’s social responsibility agenda?….

    • leshayman says:

      Ivan, you are 100% right and people with disabilities were included in the discussion on diversity. I picked up on GLBT as it was not a term I had heard before, and unlike most disabilities is much easier to stay hidden.
      I believe that discrimination in any form is unacceptable and in business wastes large pools of talent that remain unused when they are most needed.

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