These leaders all have fascinating stories and are working hard to create a more equitable working world. Here are some of the most influential LGBTQ+ CEOs and executives to follow in 2022.
The short version
- Prominent leaders such as Apple's Tim Cook and Martine Rothblatt, CEO of United Therapeutics, are excelling in their fields and paving the way for other LGBTQ+ community members to follow.
- While there's still plenty of room for more representation, having LGBTQ+ CEOS and executives means more support for LGBTQ+ causes and diversity in the workplace.
Tim Cook, CEO of Apple
Tim Cook is perhaps one of the most well-known out CEOs. In 2014, he came out as gay after receiving letters from kids struggling with their sexuality. Under Cook’s leadership, Apple has become one of the best workplaces for LGBTQ+ workers and donates generously to many LGBTQ+ organizations.
Cook was the first openly gay Fortune 500 CEO. “If hearing that the CEO of Apple is gay can help someone struggling to come to terms with who he or she is, or bring comfort to anyone who feels alone, or inspire people to insist on their equality, then it’s worth the trade-off with my own privacy,” he said in an interview with Bloomberg.
Over the years, Cook and Apple have continued to support the LGBTQ+ community by actively working to have a diverse workforce and financially contributing to organizations such as Encircle and the National Center for Transgender Equality.
Beth Ford, CEO of Land O’ Lakes
Beth Ford holds many “firsts” as the CEO of Land O’ Lakes. For starters, she’s the company's first female CEO ever. She’s also the first female LGBTQ+ leader of a Fortune 500 company. Ford has been out her entire career, and she’s been very successful.
At Land O’ Lakes, she's the leader of the American Connection Project, which advocates for better internet access in rural communities. Plus, she’s addressing food insecurity across the country and wants to support farmers who may be pushed out of their communities.
Ford knows that representation matters and wants LGBTQ+ community members to know they have a place in the business world.
Jeffrey Gennette, CEO of Macy’s
Jeffrey Gennette is one of the only openly gay CEOs in the retail business space. He’s been with Macy’s for more than 30 years, and gained the title of CEO in 2017. Although a very private person, he has helped create a supportive company that stands behind the LGBTQ+ community.
Macy’s has been a long-time supporter of organizations like The Trevor Project. The two organizations partner each year during Pride to work towards the mission of suicide prevention among LGBTQ+ youth. In total, Macy’s has helped raise $3.4 million for the nonprofit.
Additionally, with Gennette at the helm Macy’s created more than 10 employee resource groups for LGBTQ+ employees. Plus, Macy’s donates to a variety of LGBTQ+ causes throughout the year.
Sarah Kate Ellis, CEO of GLAAD
The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) has a mission to counter discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community. CEO Sarah Kate Ellis has been at the helm since 2014.
Ellis deserves recognition for her role in many important GLAAD initiatives. Among them is evolving GLAAD into one of the most powerful forces for cultural change in the U.S. (regardless of industry) and growing the organization’s mission to have global impact.
Throughout her career, Ellis won countless awards for her activism and dedication to growing LGBTQ+ acceptance worldwide.
Martine Rothblatt, Founder of United Therapeutics and SiriusXM
Martine Rothblatt is one of the highest-paid women CEOs in America, and one of the only openly trans women to be in such a high position. Rothblatt has quite the eclectic resume. Just a few of her titles include founder of Sirius XM, United Therapeutics, and a religion. She’s also an author, lawyer, and advocate.
Her current venture, United Therapeutics, is one of the only publicly-traded biotech companies and focuses on creating treatment options for those with rare diseases. The company is also currently experimenting with pig cloning and genetic modification to create a new way to perform lung transplants.
Rick Welts, Advisor, Former President and COO of the Golden State Warriors
Rick Welts is one of the most well-respected men in basketball. Welts made his way into the Basketball Hall of Fame’s class of 2018 for his remarkable career in the NBA which spanned more than 45 years and many successes.
In May of 2011, Welts made the front page of the New York Times as the highest-ranking executive in men’s professional team sports to publicly acknowledge that he is gay. Among other honors, he received the United States Tennis Association’s 2011 ICON Award, GLSEN’s Respect Award, GLAAD’s Davidson/Valentini Award, and the Anti-Defamation League’s Torch of Liberty Award. In addition, Welts served as the celebrity Grand Marshall of San Franicisco’s 2015 Pride Parade.
Although Welts recently stepped down from his role as the President and COO, he continues to work with the Golden State Warriors as an advisor.
Ana Arriola, GM of Design & Research, AI + Industrial Metaverse at Microsoft
Ana Arriola is Microsoft’s GM of Design & Research, AI + Industrial Metaverse. They’ve also worked for reputable companies such as Apple, Facebook, Samsung, and Sony. Ana identifies as a queer lesbian woman of trans and non-binary experience, and is one of the only queer people to hold such a high executive position.
Ana’s main focus in the tech world is AI. They have even spoken out on how AI can help the lives of queer technology users. Ana has been very open about the discrimination they’ve faced for their identity within the tech community, bringing to light the very real prejudices that still exist in the business world.
Jen Wong, COO of Reddit
Jen Wong, former COO at Time Inc. and current COO of Reddit is one of the tech industry's most prominent leaders. Under her leadership, Reddit has substantially increased its revenue and user base. Plus, she’s helped the company make strides to keep Reddit a safer space for LGBTQ+ users.
During the last few years Reddit has reversed its stance on how it moderates content, barring thousands of subreddits that participated in hate speech. Wong was named number one on Fast Company's Queer 50 list in 2022, and has lent her skills to prominent businesses such as AOL and Popsugar Inc. during her career.
The bottom line
While LGBTQ+ leadership is still expanding in the business world, there are currently people in leadership paving the way for those to come! Highlighting these individuals can help other LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs and business professionals see themselves represented in the careers they want to pursue.
From Apple’s CEO to Microsoft’s GM of Design & Research, the aforementioned individuals are opening doors that were previously shut for the LGBTQ+ community.