Sports figures, politicians, and political pundits have all recently come out of the closet. Why no CEOs?
The issue has been heightened by the publication of the memoir of John Browne, BP’s former CEO, forced to resign when he was outed by The Daily Mail in 2007 for his relationship with a rentboy. According to The New York Times, “He thus becomes the first current or former chief executive of a major publicly traded corporation to acknowledge that he is gay.” (See, “Among Gay CEOs, the Pressure to Conform.”)
The sociologist William H. Whyte published his book The Organization Man in 1956 about how conformity had come to dominate corporate culture. Whyte’s book, along with Sloan Wilson’s “The Man In the Grey Flannel Suit” and C. Wright Mill’s “White Collar” described how in an era of unprecedented economic success, American business was forcing its executives into representing an hyper-idealized image of family life and dedication to corporate goals.
The absence of non-conformist CEOs today suggests that this image is still being strictly maintained at the top of the corporate hierarchy.