"I'm proud to be gay," says Tim Cook, CEO of Apple who succeeded the late Steve Jobs. He made headlines when he wrote a definitive coming out essay on October 30th in Bloomberg Businessweek. In this blog post I will analyze 4 benefits for society and the LGBT movement regarding Tim Cook's proactive step toward sexual equality.
1. Impact on Future Generations: Just like Barack Obama becoming president gave black children an example of professional, political, and social achievement, Tim Cook is a great example for gay youth advancing their careers and goals. Young gay people are still bullied and marginalized in schools, their communities, religious groups, and families. Knowing Apple's CEO is gay, will help these young people fully actualize themselves, considering how gay people are made to feel like their sexuality is a sickness or character flaw. The message for the youth is, "I can be whatever I want to be, even CEO of a Fortune 500 company and my sexual orientation should not be a threat or point of objection." The emphasis on role models cannot be understated. Plenty of psychological evidence suggests how children learn behavior and character traits from parents and likewise learn to develop their goals and dreams from public figures that have come before them.
2. Hiring Practices and Gay People in Positions of Power: Tim Cook was promoted to be the CEO of Apple after being senior vice president since 1998. These decisions were made by share holders and top executives, who knew him closely and knew he was gay. Though he admits he kept his private life to himself, as most of us do, his sexuality was not a red flag when making him CEO. His work ethic and character superseded any stereotypes or homophobia from people who might question his ability to run the company. Too often gay people and other groups outside of the dominant culture are defined by what makes them different and are homogenized with others of their social group.
Society has a tendency to glorify individuals. Therefore, it is important to note that Tim Cook's leadership would not exist if it weren't for the team around him also responsible for his achievement. Now Apple sets a precedent for employers and companies to hire people who are openly gay and promote them to positions of power without questioning their sexual orientation. People may not realize the urgency to promote openness in the workforce, but a recent 2014 Human Rights Campaign survey showed that 53% of gay Americans are still closeted in the work space. Tim Cook was concerned with this issue and in his essay alluded to the fact that in many states gay people are still fired for their sexual orientation.