A lesbian businesswoman whose billionaire father offered a HK$500 million reward to any man who could convince his daughter to marry him, has been named the most influential LGBT+ business person in the world.
Gigi Chao, Vice Chairman of Cheuk Nang, becomes the first Asian and the first lesbian to top the annual OutStanding ranking, produced in partnership with the Financial Times (FT).
Last year’s top 100 ranking of LGBT+ business people, at executive level, was head by Inga Beale, the openly bisexual CEO of Lloyds of London. She drops to number two on this year’s list.
Gigi was thrust into the spotlight in 2012 when her father made the marriage offer to would-be suitors – despite the fact that Chao had already entered a civil partnership with her female partner of nine years, Sean Eav.
Her father, Cecil Chao Sze-tsung, later doubled the financial reward to HK$1 billion after receiving 20,000 unsuccessful responses.
In 2014, Gigi wrote an open letter to her father asking him to abandon his search for a husband for her.
‘I do love my partner Sean, who does a good job of looking after me, ensuring I am fed, bathed and warm enough every day, and generally cheering me up to be a happy, jolly girl. She is a large part of my life, and I am a better person because of her,’ she said in the letter.
‘I’m sorry to mislead you to think I was only in a lesbian relationship because there was a shortage of good, suitable men in Hong Kong.
‘There are plenty of good men, they are just not for me.’
Away from her private life, Gigi was busy building a successful career as executive director of luxury property development company, Cheuk Nang.
Commenting on this year’s listings, OUTstanding Founder and CEO, Suki Sandhu said in a statement, ‘Now in our fourth year, the abundance of new faces in the LGBT+ Future Leaders list is further proof that more people want to come forward as role models.
‘This year’s list is more diverse – women dominate the Top 10 of the LGBT+ Executive list and we are celebrating more transgender champions than ever before.’
Commenting on her number one ranking, Gigi Chao said in a statement, ‘I was forced to come out of the closet but as soon as it happened I realised it was an opportunity to set a good example.
‘Being recognised for the first time in the OUTstanding Top 100 leading LGBT+ Executives list is a huge honour as I share the belief that world leaders and companies have a responsibility to drive LGBT+ inclusion and policy change.’
Topping this year’s list of top 50 allies is Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, who has been vocal in his condemnation of anti-LGBT discrimination. RWB Media CEO and YouTube influencer, Raymond Braun, is number one in the Top 50 LGBT+ Future Leaders list.
The 2016 top ten LGBT+ executives in the world are as follows:
- Gigi Chao – Executive Vice Chairman, Cheuk Nang Holdings Limited
- Inga Beale – CEO, Lloyds of London
- Alan Joyce – CEO, Qantas
- Martine Rothblatt – CEO, United Therapeutics Corporation
- Stacey Friedman – General Counsel, JP Morgan
- David Furnish – CEO, Rocket Entertainment Group
- Jonathan Mildenhall – Chief Marketing Officer, Airbnb
- Liz Bingham – Partner, EY
- Mary Portas – Executive Creative Director, Portas Agency
- Louis Vega – Chief of Staff, Office of the Chairman and CEO, Dow Chemical Company
All the 2016 Outstanding lists can be viewed here.
This year’s listings also include the launch of the OUTstanding Hall of Fame; five role models who have featured in the top 10 for the past three consecutive years.
Hall of Fame inductees for 2016 are: Antonio Simoes (CEO, HSBC Bank Plc); Beth Brooke-Marciniak (Global Vice Chair, Public Policy, EY); Paul Reed (CEO, Integrated Supply Trading, BP); Claudia Brind-Woody (Vice President & Managing Director, Intellectual Property Licensing); and Anthony Watson (President & Chief Executive Officer, Uphold).
The rankings are compiled by public nominations of LGBTI executives and allies, which are then judged by an expert panel.
One name missing from the list of LGBTI executives is arguably the most famous openly gay businessman in the world: Tim Cook of Apple. However, as in previous years, all those ranked on the listing have to give their approval to appear, and Apple have consistently declined to respond to requests for Cook’s name to be included.