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Apple CEO Tim Cook’s Revelation and the Positive Impact on the Workplace

October 31, 2014

By becoming the first openly gay CEO in the Fortune 500, Apple CEO Tim Cook may have paved the way for other lesbian, gay, and bisexual people to be more open and successful in the workplace, Wired.com reports.

By publicly acknowledging his sexuality with a personal essay published online Thursday in which he wrote that he is proud to be gay, Cook has taken a step toward eliminating a phenomenon that sociologists call “covering,” wherein people try to mask their true identity on the job.

In a recent study from Deloitte University, 83 percent of LGB respondents said they had covered in the workplace, and more than half said that doing so was detrimental to their sense of self. In 29 states it’s still legal to fire someone for their sexual orientation — and “Of course that would produce more covering,” said Dr. Christie Smith, managing principal of the school’s Leadership Center for Inclusion.

Among the survey’s LGB respondents, 57 percent said the pressure to cover comes from leaders, who sometimes make derogatory jokes about gays. Ninety-three percent of respondents said their employers list “inclusion” as a core value, but at most organizations that means establishing a safe space for employees from the same group to connect, as opposed to creating vehicles that allow people from different groups to openly discuss their differences. As one survey respondent said, “If you can’t be your ‘whole self’ at work, you’re not at your best.” — Greg Beaubien

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