Magazine article Management Today

Books: The Secret Cost of Double Lives

Magazine article Management Today

Books: The Secret Cost of Double Lives

Article excerpt

Individuals and businesses both pay a price for anti-gay prejudice at work. Brendan Walsh applauds a mixture of autobiography, critique and warning.

The Glass Closet: Why coming out is good business

John Browne

WH Allen, pounds 16.99

Inside, I concealed deep unease and had to deal with inner turmoil almost daily. It is difficult to feel good about yourself when you are embarrassed to show who you actually are. That feeling did not diminish as I rose through the ranks. I grew more scared the more senior I became because I felt I had more to lose.'

Part autobiography, part social criticism, this bold book by John Browne, the former chief executive of BP, addresses the issue of homophobia that still pervades corporations.

Browne juxtaposes his personal journey to the disclosure of his sexuality with the extensive changes that took place in society. His tale begins with his experiences as a public school boy struggling to repress his sexuality in the 1960s and ends with his decision to live openly as a gay man, following a forced 'outing' at the hands of a merciless tabloid press. At the same time, it tracks the significant legislative changes taking place around him: from the 1960s when homosexual acts ceased to be a criminal offence through to the legal recognition of same-sex relationships in Britain in 2005.

The irony of the evolution of attitudes in society is not lost on Browne, who reveals that his decision to stay in the closet became almost anachronistic during his latter years heading BP. As journalist Matthew Parris wrote in the Times: 'As the years rolled on and attitudes began to shift, it was too late for (Browne) to shift with them, disavowing impressions he had allowed to arise at the start.'

However, as anyone who has been compelled to live a two-tale existence will know, one of the biggest issues facing the decision to come out is the fear that you will be seen as having lacked authenticity before the disclosure is made, and then afterwards too. Browne couldn't bring himself to admit to close friends, let alone colleagues, that he had been living a lie for so long.

The Glass Closet is tremendously well researched and is brought up to date with extensive interviews with leading businessmen and women who discuss how their decision to stay either 'in' or 'out' of the closet has affected their careers and indeed their lives.

For me, the biggest lesson from this book has to be the hidden cost of hidden lives. …

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