Meet the Out LGBTQ+ Corporate Board Members in Fortune 500
36 seats (0.6%) in 34 companies — three have two LGBTQ+ Board members (Cisco, Altriaand Macy’s) (5%) occupied by 27 out LGBTQ+ people including 15 women, 6 LatinX, 3 POC.
This list is the only one keeping continuous track of LGBTQ+ Board representation globally. There has been some movement in LGBTQ+ representation in the Fortune 500 corporate board in 2022 triggering this update. As examples, Peter Thiel left Facebook while Beth Ford joined Blackrock (and was just nominated for Starbucks), JAcinto Hernandez joined Altria, Marty Chavez joined Alphabet.
LGBTQ+ people occupy just 36 out of an estimated 5670 Board seats in Fortune 500 companies (2021 ranking), or 0.6%. Beyond the obvious issue of the abysmal representation on good governance (Gallup polls suggest that between 5.7% and 7.1% of adults self-identify as LGBTQ+ in the US), it is an insidious form of discrimination in the private sector.
Below is the tally of the top LGBTQ+ business leaders who serve in some of the world’s most prominent boardrooms.
Who are the business leaders occupying these seats?
There are 27 out LGBTQ+ people, in majority lesbians (15), in the boardroom — an exclusive club that includes fifteen women, five LatinX, and four African-Americans (all men). Many are existing or former CEOs (including the 4 out CEOs of Fortune 500), but the group also includes more atypical profiles, such as Ford Foundation’s Darren Walker.
Many occupy several seats. Beth Ford (W), CEO of Land O’ Lakes, holds multiple board seats (4) now that she joined Blackrock’s board and was nominated to Starbucks, followed by Darren Walker (2, Pepsico and Block), Tim Cook (2: Apple and Nike), Jim Fitterling (2: Dow, 3M), Amy Lane (2: TJX, Nextera), M. Michel Burns (2: Goldman Sachs, Cisco).
Interestingly enough, many of these Board members — but not all — came out late in their career (e.g. Tim Cook and Jim Fitterling) when they had already reached the pinnacle of the corporate world.
Which companies stand out?
The queerest boards are Macy’s with CEO Jeff Gennette and Google’s Terrence Boone, Cisco with Dr. Kristina M. Johnson (W) and M. Michele Burns (W) and Altria with Jacinto Hernandez and Marjorie Connelly (W).
Only 3 LGBTQ+ people chair Fortune 500 Boards: Susan Arnold (ironically Chair of the embattled Disney board), Jim Fitterling (Chair of the Dow board along with being CEO) along with Jeff Gennette (Chair of the Macy’s board along with being CEO).
LGBTQ+ Board Directors in the Fortune 500
Ranking — Company Name — LGBTQ+ Board Member(s)
#3 — Apple — Tim Cook
#8 — Alphabet — Marty Chavez
#44 — PepsiCo — Darren Walker (POC)
#50 — Disney — Susan Arnold (W / Chair of the Board)
#57 — Goldman Sachs — M. Michele Burns (W)
#68 — Best Buy — Mario J. Marte
#82 — Dow — Jim Fitterling (Chair of the Board)
#85 — Nike — Tim Cook
#89 — Goldman Sachs — Michele Burns
#96–3M — Jim Fitterling
#97 — TJX -Amy B. Lane (W)
#107 — Qualcomm — Sylvia Acedo (W) (Latina)
#148 — Rite Aid — Elizabeth Burr (W)
#159 — Paccar — Beth Ford (W)
#163 — L3Harris — Rita Lane (W)
#164 — Macy’s — Torrence Boone (POC) and Jeff Gennette (Chair of the Board)
#165 — Altria — Jacinto Hernandez (Latino) and Marjorie Connelly (W)
#166 — Nextera Energy — Amy B. Lane (W)
#187 — Starbucks — Beth Ford (nominated) (W)
#188 — Colgate Palmolive — Lorrie Norrington (W)
#192 — Blackrock — Beth Ford (W)
#208 — Block — Darren walker (POC)
#219 — Land O’Lakes — Beth Ford (W)
#255- AIG — James Cole (POC)
#276 –Consolidated Edison — Dwight McBride (POC)
#331 — Conagra Brands — Ruth Ann Marshall (W)
#414 — Zimmer Biomet — Betsy Bernard(W)
#418 — Sanmina — Rita Lane (W)
#430 — CMS Energy — Myrna Soto (W) (Latina)
*POC: Person of Color, W: Woman
What is the trend?
Between arrivals and departures this number remains rather stable. While we saw key board appointments in 2021 (3M, Blackrock, or AECOM), some departures offset them. For example, Peter Thiel famously left Meta, Ryan Zanin left the Fannie Mae board (25) to become its CRO. Professor Carolyn Bertozzi, Ph.D., (W) resigned from her role as an independent director of Lilly’s board after an acquisition that could have created a conflict.
How does it translate geographically?
Because of the impetus created by the legislator, the California State leads the pack on LGBTQ+ corporate Board Diversity, with eight of its 55 Fortune 500 companies (15%) having an LGBTQ+ Board member. These nine seats (Cisco has two LGBTQ+ Board members) represent approximately 1.6% of the Board seats (assuming an average of nine board seats per Board) compared to an average of 0.6% nationally. The eight companies are Apple (Tim Cook), The Walt Disney Company (Susan Arnold, Chair), Cisco (Dr. Kristina Johnson, Michele Bruns), AECOM (Sander van ‘t Noordende, Chair), Edison International (Michael C. Camuñez), Square (Darren Walker), Qualcomm (Sylvia Acevedo) and Sanmita (Rita Lane).
What about outside of public 500 ?
Preliminary evidence shows that LGBTQ+ people are even more underrepresented on Fortune 1000 companies. Some of the board members listed above serve on companies outside of the Fortune 500 group. As an example, Darren Walker (POC) serves on the Board of Ralph Lauren (658), Elizabeth “Busy” Burr (W) serves on SVB Financial Group (524) and Mr. Cooper Group (777), Myrna Soto (W) serves on the Boards of Spirit Airlines (795) and Popular Inc (888), Adam Stanley (POC) serves on the Board of GATX (730). Beth Brooke now serves on the Board of the New York Times (733).
Outside of Fortune 1000, it is even more difficult to track. M. Michel Burns serves on the Board of Etsy, Inc. Serge Dumont just joined the board of directors of Nasdaq-listed East West Bancorp, Inc. Pamela Stewart (Coca-Cola) is now on the board of Utz Brands. Rob Smith (Phluid Project) serves on the Board of Steve Madden Inc. Patrick O’Keeffe, former CHRO of American, just joined the Sun Country Airline’s Board. Mary Beth Henson serves on Ares. Robert Medrano (Veritone (NASDAQ:VERI)) and Lief (https://lieflabs.com), $120M Healthcare Company. Jenna Lyons (Shake Shack).
What about Europe?
Top business leaders in Europe are more likely to be closeted than their Anglo-Saxon counterparts for a variety of societal reasons making such a list impossible to build.
Sander van’t Noordende is both CEO and Board Chair of the Randstad Supervisory Board since March 2022, Rita Lane is LGBTQ+ director of Signify Holdings, M. Michel Burns serves on the Board of Anheuser-Busch InBev and Nicolas Calcoen is President of the Board of French Amundi.
Why does this matter?
There is enormous power in the Fortune 500 boardrooms, and underrepresentation perpetuates the economic marginalization of LGBTQ+ people. Encouraging board members to disclose their sexual orientation and gender identity is a step towards addressing the issue in the conservative corporate governance world. Companies that disclose sexual orientation and gender identity dispel the myth that Directors are unwilling to self-disclose. Interestingly, very few of the Fortune 500 companies that have out LGBTQ+ Board members disclose it in their proxy statements (AECOM, Apple, CMS, Meta, Conduent, Edison or Coned do but on the other hand, look at Macy’s proxy statement).
Read my post: The Queerest Board in History….that we know of
How can you help?
Help me keep this list and other lists (Fortune 1000 and beyond) up-to-date. Raise your hand for Board service (I keep a list of existing and aspiring Board-ready candidates which I freely share with companies). Use your power as employee, consumer, and investor to require companies to include sexual orientation and gender identity in their Board diversity guidelines, to include LGBTQ+ people in their slate of candidates for Board service and disclose the sexual orientation and gender identity of Board members in their proxies. Use your voice to ask the regulator — particularly the Securities and Exchange Commission — to take steps to require disclosure from companies and encourage Boards to diversify. Help make LGBTQ+ people in the Governance world visible (e.g. Nominations are open for Diligent Modern Governance 100! The program provides an opportunity for executives and board members to recognize the hard work and dedication of leading professionals across governance, risk, compliance, audit and ESG. You can submit your nomination here).
Fabrice Houdart is a former World Bank and UN Human Rights staff | Advisor/Consultant to Global Fortune 500 | Editorial Committee Women’s Forum | Board Member. He serves on the NACD Center for Inclusive Governance’s Advisory Council. You can receive his weekly updates at the interconnection of business and LGBTQ+ rights by signing up here.