After the US Supreme Court ruled that same sex marriages should be legal across the nation, many companies drenched their logos in the colours of the rainbow. Although the UK’s equal marriage act passed in 2013, leading LGBT advocate Boris Dittrich says that the UK is behind in terms of equality and acceptance in its business life.
Dittrich, who is often dubbed the ‘founding father of gay marriage’ because of his work in the Dutch parliament, which made the Netherlands one of the leading countries in terms of protecting gay rights and equality, told IBTimes UK that many gay City workers still decide against coming out because of their career prospects.
He said: “I personally feel that this is a conversation that has just kicked off in London, whereas in the US, in New York, the conversation has developed a lot more.”
Dittrich found that, in London specifically, ambition sometimes prevents LGBT workers from being open about their identity. “They still feel like coming out as LGBT does not give them any advantages and might even limit their career options. This why it is so important for big directors and executives to come out and act as a role model in a sense.”
In the UK, the most prominent example of an openly gay executive was Lord Browne, who, after decades of business success and hiding his sexuality, stood down as CEO of oil giant BP when the Mail on Sunday found out about his former partner.
“When he was still CEO of BP, he was in the closet and was therefore tense and made decisions based on his fear people would find out about his sexuality and made decisions in his position that were not good for him and possibly even the company,” Dittrich said.
Browne is now travelling the world, approaching business leaders about sexuality and diversity. He has written a book called Glass Closet, which tells the story of his double life.
Dittrich also mentioned António Simões, the Portuguese chief executive UK of HSBC, who is openly gay and lives with his husband and their adopted children. Examples of successful business people like Simões are vital to show young City workers that members of the LGBT community can still be very successful.
For the US, the ruling of the Supreme Court will help propagate the ideas of acceptance and the importance of equality and diversity for big companies. “Images like the White House covered in rainbow colours are images people just remember, which eases the process of acceptance for the whole population. It makes it easier for sons or daughters to tell their parents ‘I am like that as well’,” Dittrich said.