Starting this July, the Stanford Graduate School of Business will offer a leadership program to give LGBT leaders a boost in the workplace — the first of its kind at a university level.
The Stanford LGBT Executive Leadership Program is designed as a week-long management training and design thinking course, according to program directors Professor Sarah Soule and lecturer Thomas Wurster, who spoke about their program in an article in the Wall Street Journal. Participants will also gain networking opportunities with other gay managers, and discuss thorny issues such as being open about sexuality at work.
Soule and Wurster spoke to executives and human resource managers while crafting a program to advance LGBT business leaders through the GSB. The result was creating the LGBT Executive Leadership Program for about 50 mid-career gay managers. To get a spot in the program, candidates can apply individually or be nominated by their companies. Tuition will cost about $12,000.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Inkling Systems CEO Matt MacInnis said that these concerns “[translate] in business into a lack of confidence” — even though he has been openly gay since ninth grade. When an investor asked MacInnis about his wife upon seeing his wedding band, he chose not to correct the investor lest it jeopardize the deal.
MacInnis’s worries were not unfounded. LGBT employees continue to face discrimination in the workplace as legal reforms in certain states stagnate. For one, employers can still fire workers for their sexuality in 29 states, while transgender employees lack protection in 32 states.
Meanwhile, LGBT professionals are conspicuously lacking among the uppermost leadership. Apple CEO Tim Cook is the only openly gay CEO among the Fortune 500. Cook only came out publicly in 2014, after he was named CEO.
Joel Simkhai, CEO of the gay dating app Grindr, told the Wall Street Journal that LGBT professionals could gain from connections made at a program like Stanford’s, especially since “there weren’t any openly gay business executives as role models” when he was coming out 20 years ago. MacInnis agreed that setting aside time to work through the difficulties that come with being an openly gay leader could help participants to excel.
The new GSB program coincides with an emerging workplace diversity movement focused on LGBT inclusion. In September, a new global coalition to foster LGBT inclusion in the workforce was announced at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting. Founding members include corporate giants Google, Coca-Cola and Proctor & Gamble.
Contact Fangzhou Liu at fzliu96 ‘at’ stanford.edu.