Lord Browne: Business 'intolerant of homosexuality'

 
Lord Browne Lord Browne quit as head of BP in 2007 when details of his personal life were revealed

Lord Browne, the former chief executive of BP, is urging companies to do more to end discrimination against homosexuals.

Speaking at the launch of Connect Out, a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender network set up by Arup, the engineering and design consultants, he said: "My sense is that the business world remains more intolerant of homosexuality than other worlds such as the legal profession, the media and the visual arts. I am one of a handful of publicly gay people to have run a FTSE 100 company.

"In some industries, the situation is particularly bad. Among the many people I know in private equity, where I now work, fewer than 1% are openly gay."

He therefore wants "leaders in companies, and not just in human resources" to "think about inclusion in every decision they take". He says: "It comes down to a simple maxim - don't do anything that excludes people."

And he feels that change requires "rigorous performance measurement", the establishment of "concrete targets".

Lord Browne, who has never before spoken publicly about sexuality in the workplace, says it can be what he describes as "the smallest things" that can discourage gay people from being open with their colleagues about their sexuality.

"It is things like homophobic jokes that you somehow get used to, but never accept. Or it's the conversational assumptions about spouses and children. Perhaps, even, it's the games of golf at the weekend."

It was not until the end of his 41-year career at BP that he came out. Looking back on it, he says: "Hiding my sexuality did make me unhappy and, in the end, it didn't work. People guessed, and it was only a matter of time before it came out. I realise now that the people we dealt with certainly knew I was gay. Putin had files on everybody. But at the time I was trapped by the fear of exposure."

He goes on: "In fact I was trapped for most of my adult life, unable to reveal who I was to the world. I led a double-life of secrecy, and of deep isolation, walled off from those closest to me."

Just over five years ago, Lord Browne quit as BP's chief executive in painful and humiliating circumstances. He admitted that he had lied to a court about the circumstances in which he had met a former boyfriend.

He told me, when I interviewed him on Tuesday, that he had got so used to lying about his sexuality that he didn't think through what he was doing when he misled the court.

Lord Browne points out that when he first realised he was gay, in 1960 at boarding school, homosexuality was illegal, though the law was abolished when he went to Cambridge.

He says: "After Cambridge, when I joined BP as a graduate, it was immediately obvious to me that it was unacceptable to be gay in business and most definitely the oil business. It was a very macho and sometimes homophobic environment; I felt I had to conform."

Also, he did not want to upset his Jewish mother, who had been in Auschwitz: "My mother, whom I dearly loved, rejected any discussion of my sexuality. With her background of being persecuted she was sure that the same would happen to me."

Lord Browne believes the UK has a duty to promote sexual and gender equality internationally.

"Homosexuality remains illegal in more than 70 countries. In seven countries, it can carry the death penalty. That injustice is primarily a British export, shipped abroad in the days of the empire. In my view, we should be working overtime to correct it."

 
Robert Peston, economics editor Article written by Robert Peston Robert Peston Economics editor

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  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 567.

    John,

    This flies in the face of your experience. The macho world of the oil industry didn't give a monkeys about yours or anyones sexuality. You were the best man for the job by miles and that was all that mattered to employees and shareholders.

    You got it wrong and we regret that we had to loose you for your mistake. But we welcomed you back to do a great job for university finance.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 566.

    The corporate world has a 'herd' mentality - people actually seek out 'weaknesses' to reinforce their own position within the herd. I have known people ridiculed for being bird spotters (anoraks) whereas those who waste endless hours in the gym are seen as 'go-getters'.
    It's actually a massive display of 'herd insecurity'. Pathetic

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 565.

    564.Resistance

    "... they are born with that orientation. it's like discriminating against someone because they have a different religion than you. it's absolutely pointless."

    It's worse than that, people can choose to accept or decline Religion and convert to others etc. It's not like people can choose who to be attracted to and fall in love with.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 564.

    it's sad, really, living in a world that wants world peace and acceptance yet still discriminates against homosexuals.... they don't make a choice to be homosexual, they are born with that orientation. it's like discriminating against someone because they have a different religion than you. it's absolutely pointless.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 563.

    yeahbutnobutyeah.

    Sorry about that. There's a sea of ignorance on here so no wonder people get lost in it.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 562.

    12. NeoRealist
    What a sweeping, inaccurate thing to say.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 561.

    @559. Chris
    6 MINUTES AGO
    yeahbutnobutyeah.
    I wouldn't say supporting loving same-sex couples right to marrying means you "hate" people who support "traditional" marriage. If you want to use Bronze Age texts to support your views then fine, but don't use it to deny other people the happiness they deserve.
    ---
    I think this should have been aimed at the original poster, not me!

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 560.

    When I was at work the interest was on a persons ability to do his or her work and the question of his or her sexual orientation was never part of the equation or of any interest. I have always found that it is those that flaunt their views that create the problems for others usually in the name of equality, but in reality the are really just pushing their own agenda with no regard for others.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 559.

    yeahbutnobutyeah.


    I wouldn't say supporting loving same-sex couples right to marrying means you "hate" people who support "traditional" marriage. If you want to use Bronze Age texts to support your views then fine, but don't use it to deny other people the happiness they deserve.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 558.

    547. Golgotha

    Completely agree.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 557.

    @556. jack
    Given the hatred directed against those who wish to preseve the Traditional definition of marriage I hope that Lord Browne would as tolerant towards Traditional Christians as he wishes the world of business to be towards him.
    ---
    Given that the proposal specifically excludes religious ceremonies, you should have no problems. Your church can continue to perform marriage ceremonies.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 556.

    Given the hatred directed against those who wish to preseve the Traditional definition of marriage I hope that Lord Browne would as tolerant towards Traditional Christians as he wishes the world of business to be towards him.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 555.

    Whereas it seems acceptable on here to quote parts of the bible urging people to kill gays, would it also be equally acceptable to quote parts of Mein Kampf or other of Hiltler's speeches urging people to kill Jews?

    How can one be irrational hatred and not the other?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 554.

    @542. Shaunie Babes
    Something which is clearly not true, given that swearing at passengers on a tube train is either a 50 quid fine or 21 weeks in prison depending on who you swear at.
    ---
    Are you saying that the woman who ranted on the tram represents the majority of British people? The situation is clearly worse than I thought!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 553.

    @ 546 United Dreamer . . . no! Discrimination is discrimination, in whatever flavour it deems to present itself. There is no lesser or greater, there is either equality, or there isn't.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 552.

    sorry Jeggy have not had my tea yet and these comments have got my dander up!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 551.

    I was just agreeing with you morganup north - I was pointing out that the 'ignorance' of some just beggars belief. I understand how some use this type of forum just to show their bigotry rather than address the article!I was also just adding that we need more tolerance and acceptance.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 550.

    United Dreamer, absolutely not, tell that to people who have suffered homophobic violence or discrimination. If you're talking about worldwide persecution or discrimination then you are wrong, most countries in Asia or Africa the vast majority of them penalise same-sex activity. Seven countries in the world carry the death sentence for homosexuality. In the UK homophobia still exists too.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 549.

    In response to jeggy (although im not sure waht your point is!) the point im trying to make here is that those who have taken time to respond to this piece are so biggoted the issue of discrimantion in the work place is overshadowed by thier homophobia!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 548.

    #546 Andy - there are far more pressing issues of inequality than gay prejudice. Most workplaces do not suffer it to any significant degree. And Browne was referring to the 60s.

    I'm pretty sure as chief executive of BP he was guilty of inflicting far more suffering in his pursuit of cheap oil.

 

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