Breaking the ‘Rainbow Ceiling’: Study Confirms Businesses with LGBTQ Leaders Perform Better

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Businesses with LGBT people in senior positions perform at higher levels, a new study reveals.

Researchers at Marquette University in Wisconsin looked at data from 88 companies to see which had LGBTQ employees in top leadership roles, and how those businesses compared to those that did not. Of the companies that participated, 61 percent had one or more LGBT people in a top position.

In addition to higher overall firm performance, the report found businesses with LGBT people in leadership roles scored better in other areas, including corporate social responsibility, HR practices, and workforce quality.

“This study supports what we have been saying for years: Having LGBT people in leadership positions, whether it as a CEO, a business owner, a part of senior management or on the board of directors, is good for a business’ bottom line,” said Jason Rae of the Wisconsin LGBT Chamber of Commerce, which commissioned the study. “Simply put, diversity is good for business,” said Rae. (In comparison, 86 percent of the businesses surveyed had one or more women in leadership spots and 48 percent had people of color in a top position.)

businesses with LGBT leaders perform better
Businesses with LGBT leaders perform better overall, and score higher in workforce quality and corporate responsibility.

The companies that participated in the survey were all members of the Wisconsin LGBTQ Chamber of Commerce, representing in a variety of fields — including finances services, retail, leisure and hospitality, and education. Of those with any queer representation, 41.9 percent reported one LGBTQ person in a top role, 4.8 percent reported two, 9.7 percent reported three, 3.2% reported four, and 1.6 percent reported 11.

“This study helps reinforce our commitment to helping ‘break the rainbow ceiling’ and get more LGBT people in senior leadership roles,” added Rae. “When LGBT people are present in leadership roles, businesses do better.”

But queer people are only now cracking the C-Suite, especially at the highest levels: Alan Joyce, an out gay man, became CEO of Qantas Air in 2009, while Tim Cook became the first openly gay CEO of a Fortune 500 company five years later when he took the reins at Apple.

businesses with LGBT represenation
Jim Fitterling was named CEO of Dow Chemical in March 2018.

This year another gay man, Jim Fitterling, was named CEO of chemical giant Dow Chemical. Fitterling, 56, has spent more than 30 years with Dow but only came out in 2014.

Representation for other sections of the LGBTQ community is still lacking: Inga Beales, CEO of Lloyd’s of London, is one of only a few bisexuals leading a major corporation, while Martine Rothblatt, a transgender woman, was the top earning CEO in biopharmaceutical industry. Rothblatt, who cofounded Sirius XM in the 1990s, launched the biomedical company United Therapeutics in 1996.

Would you go out of your way to support businesses with LGBT people in leadership roles?

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