Tim Cook became the first publicly gay CEO of a Fortune 500 company after he came out in an essay in Bloomberg Businessweek magazine on Thursday.
Prior to Cook’s confirmation of his sexuality, the most senior executive identified as gay was British Petroleum’s John Browne. Browne resigned from his position in 2007 after a British tabloid revealed his sexuality, USA Today reported. Since then, he has lobbied for more openness, publishing The Glass Closet: Why Coming Out Is Good for Business.
In his essay, Cook said that while his sexuality has not been a secret to many at Apple, and has long been debated by those outside the company, he has never been public about the issue.
[quote text_size=”small” author=”– Tim Cook” author_title=”Apple CEO”]
While I have never denied my sexuality, I haven’t publicly acknowledged it either, until now. So let me be clear: I’m proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me.
Cook’s sexual orientation has been discussed in the media for years, including a recent accidental outing by CNBC journalist Simon Hobbs, the Washington Post reported. Shortly after that incident in June, Cook marched in a gay pride parade in San Francisco.
The Human Rights Campaign, an LGBT advocacy organization, said they are “incredibly grateful” for Cook’s decision to come out, saying that it will save “countless lives” and allow him to serve as a role model and inspiration while showing others that it is safe to come out at work.
While Cook’s decision is not likely to have a major impact on Apple’s global business, analysts say it is a bold move that has many unknowns, as no executive of Cook’s level has come out before. While same-sex marriage is now legal in 33 states and continuing to sweep the U.S. legal system gay rights advocates still struggle to secure even basic protection in Asia, where Apple generates about 27% of its revenue, the New York Times reported.