To mark the 2015 Queerties Awards, we’ve compiled lists of outstanding LGBTQ folks and our allies (and yes, some of our foes) in a variety of categories. At the end of each list, we ask you, the reader, to cast your vote for who should come out on top.
Business leaders come in every shape and size, from the Fortune 500s to the shop around the corner, or even the shop in your pocket. And there are some true standouts making the wold a more inclusive place for LGBTQ folk. Some have broken barriers, others have helped us connect or even just made us look out best.
Scroll down for our list of business badasses, and cast your ballot below…
Tim Cook — CEO, Apple, Inc.
You can’t start a list of LGBTQ business leaders without the daddy of them all. Apple, if you haven’t heard, is the world’s most valuable brand, according to Forbes. And right there at the top of the pyramid is Tim Cook, who described his reasoning for coming out as, “kids are getting bullied in school, kids were getting discriminated against, kids were even being disclaimed by their own parents…I needed to do something.” He’s putting his company where is mouth is: Apple played a key role killing antigay bills in Arizona and Indiana. With big business controlling the purse strings of the Republican Party these days, the road to consensus on equality may lie in part in corporate America, as distasteful as that is.
Jonny Skandros — Founder, SCRUFF
Jonny went from bullied gay youth to founding a thriving company that brings together gay men who don’t fit inside a neat, tan, coiffed little box. It’s not always easy being on the heels of household name Grindr. But he differentiated Scruff from the competition in part with what we consider the best name in market but also by allowing users of the app to contact one another regardless of geo-proximity, a point he feels empowers queers in isolated parts of the world to reach out and form connection. Exactly how connected they want to get is up to every individual, of course.
Tom Ford — Designer, Brand Founder, Filmmaker
What is there to say about Tom Ford that you already don’t know? His fashion career is one thing, but then he had to go and make A Single Man in 2009 and blow us all away in ways we never could have anticipated. Actually, here’s something you might not know: Ford is currently filming is next feature film (acting as writer/director/producer), and that’s reason enough for him to make this list. Nocturnal Animals, set for a 2016 release, stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Amy Adams and Kim Basinger, so, enough said. Perhaps no person in America (well, we have one idea, below) has been better at turning a fabulous aesthetic vision into vast wealth.
Heklina — Owner and hostess with the mostess, Oasis
San Francisco drag queen Heklina was a legend in her own right well before she took the plunge into becoming a business owner, but she breathed new life into the SF drag scene by opening nightlife hotspot Oasis in the SoMa neighborhood, which has morphed into a multipurpose shophouse for fun acts. The club now plays host to the best traveling drag talent as well as local favorites, retaining that “come-as-you-are” spirit that is harder to come by in SF by the day.
Christopher Bailey — CEO and Chief Creative Officer, Burberry
With business acumen and creative spirt that rival few, Christopher is largely credited with ushering the 159-year-old fashion house into the 21st century. Upon learning he’d been handed the CEO title, he remarked, “I would be happy if designers were able to be seen as multidimensional creators who can do things bigger and broader than what people think a designer can.” He is certainly living proof.
Kathy Wolfe — Founder, Wolfe Distribution
Seeing your story represented in films is a powerful experience, and Kathy has been at the forefront of making sure LGBTQ folk aren’t left out of the equation for over three decades. With the current incarnation of Wolfe as Wolfe On Demand, she has made available a treasure trove of independent queer filmmaking to anyone with an internet connection.
Marc Jacobs — Founder, Marc Jacobs
You caught us — we adore designers. Say what you will of Marc’s recent media attention — we admire the way he’s fired back at those who wish to put him in a box. Yes, he uses Grindr. Yes, he likes to have fun (and, gasp, that even includes sex). But why should it be any other way? Where many public figures might try and back down from exposure and harsh criticism, apologizing despite not doing anything wrong, Marc has consistently fought back for a value system that favors creativity, freedom and pleasure. We give him major points for that. Oh, did we mention that his company might be going public soon and that he used to date the porn star Henry Louis?
Peter Thiel — Entrepreneur, venture capitalist, hedge fund manager
Whenever Peter Thiel, the gay PayPal/Facebook billionaire, opens his mouth to speak, it’s anyone’s guess what’s going to come out. The vocal libertarian has backed with cash (by our standards) unsettling political causes, from Ron Paul to Ted Cruz (shudder), as well as some pretty nutty science ventures that only eccentric billionaires could ever care about. But you’ve got to give a little credit to a guy who speaks his mind, naysayers be damned, especially in group think Bay Area. He’s not only Silicon valley royalty, he’s openly gay royalty, dedicated to becoming a role model for generations of start-ups and entrepreneurs.
Amy Stanning — Senior Manager, Barclays Bank
As a manager of 240 people at Barclays, Amy was faced with a difficult situation when she decided to come out as transgender in 2009. Working for such a conservative institution, Amy’s livelihood and dignity were on the line. Her bravery paid off, and not only did she retain her position, she now works with the organization’s LGBT employee’s network to improve the experience of trans colleagues and customers.
Was the ballot left off of this page? Using my iOS tablet I’ve reloaded the page but have no option to cast a vote.
I hope Wall Street sees how obsolete the GOP has become politically and drops them faster than hot potatoes.
Maybe Kathy Wolfe… But I really wouldn’t vote for any of these. Certainly not a self hating gay republican who donates to Ted Cruz.
The CEO of the Seattle based company, Gravity Payments, who took a huge pay cut to give his employees good wages. Dan Price took a 90% pay cut and doubled his employees wages. Is he gay or straight? I don’t know, but what he did was awesome whatever is sexual preference.
I have to throw my support behind Heklina. Dear friend, risk-taker, bitch can throw a party.
As to Barclays, I hope their new CEO Jeff Staley, late of JP Morgan, doesn’t rationalize Ms. Stanning out of a job though my observation of diversity efforts within the US bulge bracket banking industry (Barclays is British) gives the impression that, while the environment is not blatantly homophobic, inclusion is window dressing, like saying “work-life balance.” Wells Fargo is an exception.
And I sure as hell wouldn’t vote for a hedge fund manager. Paper pushers who engage in nefarious activity. Wall Street disgusts me. If we had real oversight in this country, half of these guys would serving time.
Where’s the poll? I’m using an iPad too and it doesn’t show up.
Anyway, this is a no brainier.
Really, no people of color on this list? REALLY??
@Mark Behar: Does not surprise me one bit, sadly…
Mark Behar–Uhh, why don’t you name one person of color who you think kicked ass in 2015?
Donald Trump — duh!
I have mixed feelings about Apple. I love them for being the most LGBT friendly company, but hate them for paying their Chinese workers a little over $3 per hour, about half the living wage there. They could pay a comfortable wage, even in USA, and still make obscene profits.
sportguy1983, I’m supposing lipstick would make it a little easier for you?
I just want to cast a group vote to the remarkable DHS for keeping the world a tad bit safer by going after Rentboy. Kudos to everyone back in DC for keeping security and fairness a hallmark of what you do.
Since it is open poll; here are a few maybe we can consider…
Rachel Wahba of Olivia Travels, comes to mind – an amazing background as a non-Ashkenazi Jew and a successful year of her company (who was co-founded by/with her then partner Judy Dlugacz) Olivia Travel. Premium Lesbian cruises and vacations don’t come cheap, and they do it very well.
RuPaul – This past year has shown how incredibly lucrative, productive, interactive, and thus marketable Drag Race (and by association – all of the intelligently brilliant talent that has come out of it – with the likes of Bianca Del Rio, Willam Belli, Alyssa Edwards (and her High House of Edwards)) thus making what were once limited audiences mainstream – finding, when not outright creating platforms for these acts, the show, the talent, and the fans to interact. Money undoubtedly flows and notably there is this perception that Mama Ru is at the top, Lording over it all – and making a pretty penny for it. Truly, she is there over quite a few other performers that are managing their own Empires. Willam, Alaska, Courtney, Alyssa, Bianca and the list goes on – have capitalized (both deftly and intelligently in a rapidly changing market) both domestically and internationally as commercially viable products, with the control of that product resting more squarely in the laps of those performers than ever before. Youtube allows us closer insights into their lives that most performers would ever dream of, and yet they do – creating greater mass appeal. Smart moves, from intelligent CEOs, carefully managing their brands, making their monies – low overheads – big profits – and all this thanks to a universally accepted fact – that Her Majesty Empress Ru Paul has been a major contributor to the acceptance and mass appeal of these girls to launch off of, or follow.
None of them. They’re all bourgeois shills for the 1%
Try Mariela Castro.
Interestingly enough – Andy Cohen is a C.E.O.
Dr. Arthur Frederick Ide
NEVER a hedge fund managers, especially as despicable as Peter Thiel.
I guess Queerty is on Autopilot at the moment. Odd that they don’t check their stuff once it goes on the web though. I thought that was Webmaster 101. Still no poll to mark at 11:00 am Pacific and I’m on a laptop using Chrome. 2.5 hours is a pretty long time to NOT notice you’ve posted something lacking an essential element. These are THEIR awards based on OUR input.
They are all good,but I vote for Tim Cook!
@BJ McFrisky: This asked what business leader kicked ass. Not which business got their ass kicked.
@sportsguy1983: Your ignorance never surprises anyone on here.
Tim Cook? Has he done anything for the workers in the deplorable conditions many of his products are made in? Apple relies on a supplier known as “Foxconn”. Reports came out several years ago that there were terrible labor violations, and any progress has been minimal since then. Not only that Foxconn is incredibly destructive to the environment dumping all sorts of toxic chemicals. Tim Cook is a definite NO to me.
Apple gets their supply manufactured at a fraction of the price it would cost in the US and then upsells these inferior products at a premium price.
And lately their sales have dropped off. Apple is completely overreliant on iPhone sales and they say they are starting to peak… and they always manufacture too many of them.
I recently met Johnny Skandros in LA. What a nice, wonderful, warm guy and his looks don’t hurt either. He is a bear lover!
Gender studies or communications major? 2012 called and wants their *hackneyed* meme back.
Literally laughed re: Trump.
For such a short list not many are very inspiring. I’m nonplussed about Tom Ford and Marc Jacobs. I don’t find anything they do particularly interesting. That’s two down.
Sorry Christopher Bailey, CEO of a clothing company just doesn’t seem very impressive or “kicking ass”.
Tim Cook and Apple are implementing some LGBTQ helpful strategies in some cities where they have business but their legendary tax evading schemes and appalling record of wage pay in the factories they employ leaves a bitter taste (still love my iPad and MacBook. Yeah, I know – hypocrisy.)
From the articles I’ve read about him, Jonny Skandros is an interesting character but a hook-up app – different as it may seem – is still just a hook-up app.
I like Heklina, and I like the show at the Tra, er I mean Oasis, but I can’t get behind cowing to pressure out of fear of offending delicate sensibilities (let the hate begin…).
Amy Stanning is working to make a conservative institution a kinder, gentler conservative institution for it’s trans employees and customers. That’s cool for them.
Peter Thiel stands for just about everything I abhor so absolutely not.
This leaves me with Kathy Wolfe. In my opinion making movies (and shorts) that are LGBTQ-centric accessible to anyone including the high school freshman living in a rural area who feels alone with seemingly nobody locally to confide in is far more interesting than any of the other people on this list.
Now, if Queerty had just remembered to actually add a clickable poll I could cast my vote as I see things.
@Mark Behar: The number of openly gay non white people on top positions on business is not that high. If you have a sugestion you should just name who you think should be on that list
Kathy Wolfe by far. She has given me (us) YEARS of watching ourselves in movies. I’ve laughed, cried and changed my views on issues/life. No one on this list has done more for me than she has.
Tim Cook? Let us not only talk about China, but about anyone who owns and apple product for supporting him and promoting the horrible working conditions in China.
And I can’t remember his name, but where is that awesome guy who cut his salary big time, so his employees could have bigger wages? THAT’S something to be nominated for.
@BJ McFrisky: Still smoking your brains eh ‘BJ’.
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