Apple CEO Tim Cook has publicly come out as gay for the first time ever in a heartfelt first-person testimony published at Bloomberg BusinessWeek. “While I have never denied my sexuality,” he wrote, “I haven’t publicly acknowledged it either, until now. So let me be clear: I’m proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me.”
Among the ways being gay has affected his life, Cook explained that it’s “provided a window into the challenges that people in other minority groups deal with every day,” as well as making him “more empathetic” and giving him “the skin of a rhinoceros, which comes in handy when you’re the CEO of Apple.”
Back in May, the New York Times wrote how there were no openly gay CEOs at any of the nation’s 1,000 biggest companies. The paper later clarified that none had discussed their sexuality openly, at least, but many were already familiar with Cook’s story. In fact, during a June CNBC segment on the topic, host Simon Hobbs suggested, “I think Tim Cook is fairly open about the fact that he is gay,” which he quickly followed with, “Oh dear, was that an error?”
But it’s no longer an error, and Cook is adamant that though his privacy is important to him, he is coming out because he feels it’s the right thing to do for others: “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.” In addition being gay, he’s also still “an engineer, an uncle, a nature lover, a fitness nut, a son of the South, a sports fanatic, and many other things.”
Indeed, studies have shown that being out at work is good for both the well-being and productivity of gay employees and their colleagues. When employees feel safe to come out, they are more likely to advance in their career and stay with the same company. Likewise, working with openly gay people actually improves the productivity of their coworkers, who can more easily build trust without being distracted by the way somebody is hiding their private life.
Though Cook is now the first openly gay CEO at a major corporation, 91 percent of Fortune 500 companies include sexual orientation in their nondiscrimination policies and 67 percent offer same-sex partner benefits to employees.
Cook concluded by noting that he greets framed photos of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy every morning at work and is inspired to do his own part to help others. “We pave the sunlit path toward justice together, brick by brick,” he wrote. “This is my brick.”