Openly gay CEOs are a rarity in the business world, even though more companies are publicly expressing their support for gay rights and inclusive workplaces. One businessman on this list mused that there are still many gay executives who keep their personal lives private, but predicted that more openly gay men and women will steer more companies in the future.
Here is a list of several openly gay company chiefs.
—By CNBC.com staff
Posted 30 Oct. 2014
Apple CEO Tim Cook openly discussed his sexuality in an interview published Thursday, making him one of a relatively short list of openly gay CEOs. "I'm proud to be gay," he said in the interview with BloombergBusinessWeek.
Hanson now runs luxury jewelry company John Hardy, and was formerly CEO of American Eagle Outfitters, as well as a global president of sales for Levi's. He wrote about his sexuality in Time, saying he has been openly gay as long as he has been in business, and that the greater visibility of high-performing gay CEOs can help fight discrimination against gays and lesbians in the workplace.
The former chief of BP abruptly resigned after the British tabloid The Mail exposed a relationship Browne had with a young man who had once been a male prostitute, according to the BBC. In a subsequent book he wrote about his experiences as a closeted gay executive, Browne said he was "terrified" of being outed even as a young man. He has called for a more inclusive workplace.
Thiel is one of Silicon Valley's most significant investors and entrepreneurs. He was CEO of PayPal, the electronic payments company he co-founded with Elon Musk and Max Levchin. He also was a prominent angel investor in Facebook, and co-founded data analysis company Palantir. Thiel has invested in several other technology companies as an angel investor, and through his funds Clarium Capital and Mithril.
Thiel said in an interview on CNBC's "Squawk Box" that he suspects there may be many gay CEOs who have not announced it publicly, and suggested it may be in part because they hail from an older generation.
"I think we'll be seeing a lot more in the decades ahead," Thiel said.
The chief executive and chief creative officer of iconic British fashion brand Burberry assumed leadership in May 2014, which means he is the first openly gay CEO of a company included in the FTSE 100—the 100 companies on the London Stock Exchange with the largest market capitalization, according to an essay by another man on this list, Lord Browne.
As president and chief operating officer of the Golden State Warriors, Welts is the is the highest ranking executive in men's professional team sports to publicly acknowledge he is gay. Welts first opened up on the subject in an interview in 2011.