Trevor Burgess was upfront about his sexuality on the first resume he ever put together after college. And when it came time for his company to file documents to go public, he again made no secret about being gay.
Burgess, 41, just became the first openly gay CEO of a publicly traded bank in the U.S., as first noted by the New York Times.
"I’ve been openly gay since I was 19 years old," Burgess, the CEO of C1 Bank, told The Huffington Post in an email Friday morning.
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While corporate America on the whole has evolved to be pretty gay-friendly in recent years, with more and more companies offering health benefits to same-sex couples and protection against discrimination, there are still no openly gay CEOs at any of the 1,000 biggest companies in the U.S. (though the term "openly" has been the subject of some controversy.)
Burgess made history on Thursday morning when he rang the bell at the New York Stock Exchange to kick off the public offering of shares in C1 Financial, the parent company of a small regional bank that has 29 locations in Florida, a state that doesn't recognize same-sex marriages. Burgess indicated his husband, Gary Hess, owns shares in the company in its IPO filing with the SEC.
"I rose through the ranks because I was really good at what I did and that’s the real lesson," Burgess told HuffPost. He worked for 10 years as an investment banker at Morgan Stanley where he was one of the first openly gay managing directors.
Part of what's stopping LGBT people from rising in the ranks is the lack of gay people at the top, experts say.
"When people see that 90 percent of companies have nondiscrimination policies in place, that's great. But to me, a better indicator, is, how many senior leaders are there who are gay and who are out?" Todd Sears, a former banker who founded the LGBT leadership organization Out Leadership told HuffPost in June. "If LGBT people look around and they don't see other LGBT people who are out, if they don't hear inclusive messages, they're not going to feel valued."
But Burgess thinks the tides are turning.
"It’s only a matter of time before openly gay people, people like me who have been authentic their entire adult lives, rise through the ranks to the C-suite," he told HuffPost. "We have great examples in basketball, soccer, football and many other walks of life and now the [New York Stock Exchange]!"
Other banks were quick to congratulate Burgess.
"Leaders who feel comfortable being open about their sexual orientation are more productive and engaged, which directly impacts the success of their organizations," Irene Dorner, the president and CEO of HSBC, said in a statement released by Out Leadership. "HSBC offers sincere congratulations to Trevor on leading the way with this IPO, and our best wishes for continued success."
(Hat tip: New York Times)
Clarification: Language has been added to the post to reflect that Burgess is the first openly gay CEO of a publicly traded bank in the U.S., not in the world.