Does being a gay man hold someone back at work?

I have been reading your blog since I was in high school, and I always try to take your advice.

I have my first job out of college and it’s a very good job for me. My boss is gay. I know I am supposed to make my boss my mentor. And I am supposed to find someone who is moving up in the company to move up right behind. Is it okay to attach myself to my boss or is he going to run up against too many barriers because he’s gay?

1 reply
  1. Penelope Trunk
    Penelope Trunk says:

    First, I want to say that in many states it’s illegal to discriminate against someone for their sexual identity. And most companies have made public statements to say they do not tolerate discrimination of anyone based on sexual orientation.

    That said, we know that many people face discrimination in the workplace regardless of rules or laws. Because so often it’s impossible to enforce well-intentioned measures to protect people from discrimination.

    Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, is gay. And he climbed up the ladder just fine. Of course each person is an individual, but here are some generalizations:

    Men are penalized for being gay in industries where people are rewarded for having traits of an alpha male. Finance, for example, or professional sports. Industries where gay men are not penalized are where women are the clients. Fashion or interior design, for example.

    That said, especially early in your career, the best person to work for is someone who cares about helping you figure out where you fit. If your current boss takes time to find out what your strengths and weaknesses are, and he takes time to make sure you have good training, then he’s probably a good boss for you.

    Most importantly, being out at work makes for a better life. If you’re gay, you’ll have a stronger career.

    And if you work for someone who’s gay, you can make a difference in the world by judging him not for his sexual orientation but for how good a mentor he is to you. Most people are terrible managers, if you work for a good manager — gay or not — you’re lucky.

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