Lord John Browne spent 40 years working for BP and in 1995 he became CEO. Over the next 12 years he transformed the firm into one of the world’s largest companies and gained enormous respect internationally as a business leader.
But throughout his career he never told colleagues or friends that he was gay. He spent four decades living a double life hiding his sexuality and avoiding situations where he might be exposed.
This was increasingly difficult as he became more recognizable and his desperate attempts to live a secret life led him to make some very bad judgements. It eventually led to a British newspaper outing him as a gay man in 2007. He resigned immediately as the head of BP and left the company that had become his family.
Life did not end as he feared it would. People wrote letters of support both to him and the national press and it became clear that the best of life was to come. In recent years those closest to Lord Browne encouraged him to share his story more widely in the hope that it would help others.
Lord Browne had already authored a memoir Beyond Business and the popular science book Seven Elements that Changed the World.
But in 2013 he began research on a new book. The Glass Closet was published in June 2014.In it, he offers incontrovertible evidence that it’s better for you, your business and the economy when you bring your authentic self to work.
The book spells out the significant hidden costs of hidden lives. It challenges individuals and companies to create workplace environments that get LGBTI inclusion right. And in particular, it calls on corporate leaders to consider inclusion and diversity in every business decision they take.
The book inspired business leaders and LGBTI people around the world. Browne has become a major advocate for LGBTI inclusion in business, frequently speaking and giving interviews to encourage corporate leaders and challenge them to do more
The Glass Closet had become a movement.
Among those inspired were the directors and editors of Gay Star News. We approached Lord Browne in the summer of 2014 to talk about our ideas for Gay Star Business.
GSN had existed for only two-and-a-half years, had millions of readers and was established as the only LGBTI news site with a truly global agenda. Our international team of writers produces news and features 24/7.
We wanted Gay Star Business to take this further – to provide global reporting of LGBTI issues in the workplace. To show the business development opportunity presented by truly including everyone and harnessing the power of the LGBTI market.
Lord Browne saw the potential of what we were doing just as we saw the power of the message he delivers in The Glass Closet. He became an investor in Gay Star News in January 2015 and we launched Gay Star Business shortly after.
Gay Star Business now incorporates The Glass Closet’s official website. The mission of GlassCloset.org is to encourage other LGBTI individuals to share their experiences in business and to act as a resource for companies and individuals seeking to improve LGBTI workplace inclusion.
The Glass Closet site offers personal stories by LGBTI individuals to inspire you to bring your whole self to work.
But it’s more than just that. It’s Lord Browne’s invitation for you to get involved.
The resources listed on The Glass Closet can help you and your company understand the importance of inclusion and diversity and to take action – through policies and practices.
We hope the personal stories we share will inspire you and the information across Gay Star Business will empower you to push for change.
Join discussions on how authenticity at work can benefit you and your workplace. Gay Star Business and The Glass Closet site are updated regularly so you can discover the latest news and initiatives.