Tim Cook Comes Out, What it Means for LGBT Entrepreneurship

November 12, 2014

12:30 pm

Recently the CEO of the most valuable company of the world publicly announced: “I’m proud to be gay, and I consider being gay one of the greatest gifts God has given me.” That of course was Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple.

Cook becomes the third openly gay CEO of a publicly traded company and first openly gay CEO of a Fortune 500 company.The vast majority met the announcement with resounding applause as members of the business world, media, politics, and other groups commended Cook.

Gene Faulk, the CEO of StartOut – a nonprofit that supports the next generation of LGBT entrepreneurs, is excited about what this means for the LGBT business community:

“While there have been substantial gains for the community in representation and visibility in politics, entertainment, journalism and now even sports, in too many places the corporate closet continues to flourish, and there are virtually no role models in the senior ranks of the business community. Today that changed.”

Gonzalo Arraya, Co-Founder and COO of Titanium Worldwide, a collective of Certified-Diverse businesses, understands the importance of diversity in the corporate world:

“Today’s 21st century workforce consists of four generations, four mindsets and four realities – it’s about exceptional talent and diversity.  As a Corporate Openly-Gay Entrepreneur, I experienced the ‘frat house struggles.’; Tim Cook evidently has empowered or some would say caused a ruckus; [you need to] make yourselves present.”

But what is the true impact of this news? What can we expect to see moving forward?

1 – Openness and transparency in business

Now that the CEO of the largest company in the world has publicly stated that he’s gay without any proverbial fire and brimstone, we’ll see more professionals do the same. Even as recently as 10 years ago, many professionals who are out today didn’t feel comfortable being themselves in the workplace. That continues to change, as Cook’s announcement proves to be a big step forward. The next generation of LGBT business professionals and owners will be open and authentic from the beginning without concern that it will adversely affect their business.

2 – You’ll hear a lot more about LGBT entrepreneurs

As LGBT entrepreneurs become more confident in their identities we’re going to start to see a whole lot more of them. Many existing LGBT entrepreneurs now feel more confident in their own identity and will be more willing to be open in the public eye. Additionally, the growing acceptance of LGBT individuals in the workplace will give rise to more LGBT entrepreneurs. When employees feel comfortable being themselves at work, confidence increases, performance improves. and employees who once never thought it was possible, will gain the ability to step out on their own to create innovative businesses. The growing number of organizations such as StartOut and NGLCC, oftentimes led by LGBT CEO’s and entrepreneurs, certainly help as well.

3 – Progress becomes reality

While the LGBT community still has a long way to go in the good ole’ boys club of Fortune 500 companies, Tim Cook’s coming out is a large step towards this sort of progress becoming reality. Young and aspiring LGBT entrepreneurs and business people can look up to the likes of Peter Thiel, and now Cook, as proof that we are well on our way to equal representation among LGBT individuals in the pinnacle of the business world.

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Carlo is a serial entrepreneur, speaker and writer. He is the Founder & CEO of SELECT. He is also a member of the YEC, an elite organization for successful entrepreneurs.

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