While there are still no openly gay CEOs in the Fortune 1000, as the Wall Street Journal reports, it may only be a matter of time. Thanks to people like Trevor Burgess, whose Florida bank C1 Financials debuted earlier this month on the stock exchange, LGBT executives are becoming more visible in the financial world, sparking hopes of greater diversity across the board.
Burgess isn’t the only openly gay CEO — Jason Grenfell-Gardner runs the publicly traded New Jersey pharmaceutical firm IGI Laboratories, Inc. — but he’s certainly a rarity. As he told the Wall Street Journal, he’s “a little sad” to mark the milestone, even though he’s proud of what he’s accomplished.
“I’m excited that there will be at least one example for people,” Burgess said. “We’ve got good examples for basketball players, arts, football, but where’s Wall Street?”
According to Burgess and Todd Sears, founder of the LGBT leadership group Out On the Street, the next few years will see more top execs going public with their sexuality, as the climate slowly begins to change. Better still, they predict, many workers who’ve been out for years will begin to attain high-level leadership positions, proving that their companies reward performance without regard for sexuality.
Before landing at C1, Burgess spent 10 years at Morgan Stanley, and while he sometimes encountered bigotry in the workplace — a few comments here and there, he recalls — he said his personal life was rarely an issue.
“At the end of the day, I think that my clients and my colleagues really appreciated me for who I was and the fact that I was good and being good mattered more than anything else,” Burgess told the Wall Street Journal.
If, indeed, more LGBT workers are able to climb the corporate ladder, it could make things easier for subsequent generations. Looking back, Burgess says there wasn’t such a support system in place when he was starting out.
“Looking for mentors, looking for examples, looking for someone who was like me and coming up blank was pretty stark and a bit sad and scary,” he said.