In New York, 2 of the 4 openly LGBT+ CEOs of Fortune 500 companies reflect on the importance of visibility

More than 200 LGBT+ business leaders gathered in May 2019 in New York for Out Leadership’s 9th annual U.S. Summit, sponsored by EY, Ogilvy, and Ropes & Gray.

Ogilvy hosted the first session, LGBT+ in the Corner Office: CEO’s Taking Action.

Sally Susman, Executive Vice President, Chief Corporate Affairs Officer, Pfizer Inc. interviewed Beth Ford, CEO, Land O’Lakes, and Jim Fitterling, CEO, The Dow Chemical Company.

Beth Ford spoke about reactions to her historic appointment:

“What has been most profound for me is the number of people who have contacted me to discuss and celebrate. But what I want to emphasize about those moments is that the people who were most emotional were the parents. I could feel the level of pain and fear that these parents have had for their children. I’ve had grown men who can’t speak because they’re crying, and they want to say something. I just say, it’s okay. That level of emotion I don’t think is really about me so much as it is a moment of relief. That’s been the most emotional thing for me.”

Jim Fitterling said:

“What I’m most proud of personally is that I feel like I’m a better leader for having come out, and that I feel better and healthier for it. More broadly, I’m incredibly proud to say that our ERG participation in the company has gone from about 18% to greater than 30% in less than a year. People feel that it’s okay to get involved with one of the groups, they feel like it’s going to make a difference. And I think that’s a product of us doing what we can.”

Referencing research launched at the Summit, Fitterling noted: “If Out Leadership can do with the state LGBT+ Business Climate Index what HRC has done with the Corporate Equality Index, that will be a good benchmark. We can make some good progress.”


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