The cross-bench peer and former BP chief executive – who was outed as gay in 2007 – says companies must do more to show that ‘coming out’ can be a positive career move
British companies should be forced to say how many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transexual people they employ in senior positions, a cross-bench peer has said.
Lord Browne, a former BP chief executive who was outed as gay by a Sunday newspaper in 2007, argued that publishing the data would show how “coming out” can be a positive career move and allow younger gay employees to feel they are working in an “inclusive environment”.
“There are currently no official reports on the number of LGBT people on boards, who are directors of boards, or in the very senior positions of the most successful companies,” he said.
“I believe that needs to change. Much as we report the gender of people on boards and in the most senior positions, we should ask people to volunteer to disclose their sexuality – and it should be required that that statement be reported by all companies.”
He said he would work to introduce the measure following the election.
Speaking at a conference hosted by the equality organisation Stonewall, Lord Browne added: “When a person cannot see how someone like them can be successful in an organisation, it’s difficult to convince them that coming out can be a positive career move.
“That’s why role models at the very top are so very important. There’s nothing more powerful in dispelling fear as seeing people who are openly gay succeeding at the highest level.”
The 67-year-old, who was closeted to his friends and colleagues until his relationship with a rent boy was exposed – in a newspaper story he sought to repress with an injunction – said individuals needed to take responsibility for being open about their sexuality, “but often their work environments aren’t truly inclusive”.
His comments on LGBT visibility in the workplace were the subject of debate last year, when he suggested that British companies send gay employees to countries like Russia in a bid to change attitudes towards homosexuality.
Lord Browne, who was chairman of Cuadrilla, has also said he hopes to see a gay prime minister in his lifetime.