One of the frequently asked questions of the HBS Gay & Lesbian Student Association (GLSA) is, “What roles do gays and lesbians play in the business world?” Gays and lesbians are an important component of the workforce and consumer base. Gay-friendly environments help release the potential of all employees, creating a fair environment for personal and organizational success.
Many companies are realizing that gays and lesbians represent an untapped market for their goods and services. The Gay Financial Network estimates that the tangible assets of the gay and lesbian community exceed $800 billion. In addition, recent studies have shown that when offered products and services of similar quality, 88% of gay and lesbian clients would purchase products and services directly marketed to them. As such, many advertisers see “gay marketing” as integral to their success.
Gays and lesbians have not only become more visible in the media, they have also been more visible in the business arena as well. There are a number of companies that have supported GLSA events on campus and have targeted recruiting events to our membership including Bain, McKinsey, Goldman Sachs, Citibank/Salomon Smith Barney, and the Boston Consulting Group.
As workplaces become more gay-friendly, there has been an increase in the number of out high-level gay executives. Highlighted below are some of the most prominent and influential out gay and lesbian executives in Corporate America:
Allan Gilmour, CFO, Ford Motor Company
Allan Gilmour’s return to the work force makes him the highest-ranking American executive who is openly gay. With an MBA from the University of Michigan, Gilmour rose to president of Ford Credit in 1975, chief financial officer in 1986 and president of Ford Automotive Group in 1990.
He just returned to the CFO post this past year after a four-year retirement following a management overhaul.
David Geffen, CEO, DreamWorks SKG; President, The David Geffen Foundation
Billionaire David Geffen has been a major player in the world of entertainment production for decades. Producing top-selling records in the 70’s and 80’s, he branched out to produce memorable movies like “Risky Business” and “Little Shop of Horrors,” as well as the recent 1999 hit “American Beauty.” In 1990, he sold Geffen Records to MCA for $700 million. In 1994, he co-founded DreamWorks SKG with film director Steven Spielberg and former executive of the Walt Disney Company Jeffrey Katzenberg to produce films, TV shows and records. The David Geffen Foundation donates about $7 million annually to AIDS/HIV organizations including Gay Men’s Health Crisis.
Barry Diller, Chairman, USA Interactive and Vivendi UNIVERSAL Entertainment
Barry Diller is head of USA Networks, a TV network he bought in 1998 that started out as an all-sports channel in 1977 and today is a media conglomerate with annual revenues of $3 billion. Diller has held the chairman position at Paramount Pictures, Home Shopping Network, QVC and Fox Television. Under his control, USA acquired the Hotel Reservations Network and October Films. Third quarter revenue rose 24 percent to $793.2 million from $640.5 million. Diller sits on the boards of Ticketmaster Online-CitySearch, Seagram Co. and The New York Public Library, among others.
Kathy Levinson, former President and Chief Operating Officer, E*TRADE Group Inc.
Kathy Levinson is the former President and Chief Operating Officer of E*TRADE Group Inc. Levinson moved to E*TRADE in 1996 with 13 years experience with Charles Schwab & Co., where she held several senior executive positions. Levinson has been a visibly powerful political force since August 1999, when she announced her opposition to Proposition 22 (also known as the Knight Initiative) with one of the campaign’s lead gifts and largest contributions. She is featured in a Harvard Business School Case Study.
Skip Paul, Co-Founder, Chairman and CEO, Sega GameWorks
Skip Paul co-founded Sega GameWorks, an entertainment venture formed with Steven Spielberg and DreamWorks SKG, Seagram, Universal Studios and Sega Enterprises Ltd. Prior to Sega GameWorks, Paul has played a pivotal role in the development of the now multi-billion-dollar interactive entertainment industry. He has held senior executive positions at MCA Inc., where he was influential in the development of MCA’s Universal Studios Theme Parks; and at Atari, Inc., where he was instrumental in building the company’s coin-operated games franchise. In November, further solidifying his position as a leader in the online entertainment industry, he joined the IFILM Corp. as Co-Chairman and Chief Executive Officer.
David Bohnett, Founder, Geocities & David Bohnett Foundation
Entrepreneur David Bohnett is the founder of GeoCities, which he started in 1994 and which soon grew to become the largest community on the Internet. After selling GeoCities to Yahoo!, Bohnett formed the David Bohnett Foundation, a non-profit grant-making organization focused on providing resources for organizations pursuing societal change and social justice through activism, with an initial endowment of $32 million. The foundation’s current endowment is approximately $40 million, with nearly $2 million worth of grants awarded in the year 2000 alone.