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Gay, Lesbian Execs Say 'Coming Out' Accepted

Representatives From Fortune 500 Companies Speak Postively of Their Experience in the Workplace

By Elizabeth H. Roemer

Gay and lesbian senior business executives said that their "coming out" in the workplace has generally been met with acceptance in a panel discussion last night in the Adams House Junior Common Room.

About 80 students, most of them from the Harvard Business School, attended the event, titled "The Inaugural Harvard University Gay and Lesbian Business Executive Panel."

Twelve representatives from Fortune 500 companies--including Goldman, Sachs & Co., American Express and AIG International--shared their experiences on leading what literature for the event calls an "untraditional lifestyle."

One top executive said his company is more concerned with its bottom line than with the sexual orientation of its workers.

"[Goldman, Sachs & Co.] care about making money," said R. Martin Chavez, chief energy strategist and vice president of the J. Aron unit at that firm.

The majority of the panelists said their companies and co-workers were very supportive after they came out.

The panel--sponsored by the Harvard Business School Gay and Lesbian Student Association (HBS GLSA)--was designed to reassure gay and lesbian students about the difficulties of the business world.

"For the students, the forum provides open discussion...on leading an alternative lifestyle in traditionally less tolerant companies," said W. C. "Chip" Arndt, co-president of HBS GLSA.

"Companies have begun to recognize [that] some very smart people are gay and lesbian," Arndt said.

He said the companies benefited from the forum because they could identify top-level candidates who they feel may not have participated in the normal recruiting process.

Even students who had already spent time in the working world said they benefited from the discussion.

"Overall I found the panel very good and supportive," said Business School student M. S. Christopher Willson. "Even as an adult undergraduate I need to have role models and see there are other people out there like me."

Arndt said the HBS GLSA "hopes this will become an annual forum to help foster acceptance and tolerance for alternative lifestyles in the workplace."

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