British business too intolerant of gays, claims Lord Browne

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The Independent Online

Lord Browne, the former chief executive of BP and one of only a handful of openly gay business titans, has criticised UK plc for being intolerant of homosexuality.

The crossbench peer resigned in 2007 after nine years running BP because of allegations about his private life. Speaking publicly about being gay for the first time since leaving BP, Lord Browne, pictured, compared corporate Britain unfavourably to other sectors of society.

"My sense is that the business world remains more intolerant of homosexuality than other worlds such as the legal profession, the media and the visual arts ... . I am one of a handful of publicly gay people to have run a FTSE 100 company," he said. "In some industries, the situation is particularly bad. Among the many people I know in private equity, where I now work, fewer than 1 per cent are openly gay."

Lord Browne was speaking at the launch of Connect Out, a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender network set up by Arup, the engineering and design consultancy.

He went on to say that he believes gay people are often put off applying for jobs because they are concerned about discrimination.

"This is the most difficult thing, people need confidence to go out there and be part of life," Lord Browne said.

"After Cambridge, when I joined BP as a graduate, it was immediately obvious to me that it was unacceptable to be gay in business and most definitely the oil business. It was a very macho and sometimes homophobic environment; I felt I had to conform."

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