During Gay Pride Month, several Fortune 500 companies held forums across Chicago on topics that involved business and the GLBT community—a program called Citywide Pride. One of the businessmen who spoke at the forum 'Being Out at the Top' was Marco Ziegler, a partner at Accenture.
Windy City Times: Tell me about your educational background.
Marco Ziegler: I was born and raised in Germany and moved to North America 10 years ago. I lived in New York and Toronto before I finally found my favorite city, Chicago. I've studied in Germany, France, and the U.S. and have an international business degree in marketing and international management from the European Business School in Germany and Thunderbird, Arizona.
WCT: Have you always been openly gay in the corporate world?
MZ: No. I never put a sign around my neck that says, 'I'm gay.' My [coming out] has gradually evolved over the past few years parallel to my career progression. Building trusting relationships with my co-workers takes time. I've been very subtle about my private life. I'm sure not everyone in the firm knows [that I'm gay]—and that's fine with me. It should not matter, but many of my co-workers have met my partner Jamie, who accompanies me on business trips and company events that we both feel comfortable participating in as a couple.
WCT: It's just that, when you work with people long enough, your personal life inevitably comes up.
MZ: I'm more inclined to share my passions: things like what Jamie and I do on the weekends; our traveling; and competing in marathons and triathlons. Gradually I'll introduce other elements of my personal life, depending on my comfort level, but it takes time and really depends on the relationship I have with the businessperson. One thing I do not do is make up female partners in my life; that's a principle which I defend.
WCT: Do you think the level of homophobia or discrimination increases as you go up the corporate ladder?
MZ: No. Honestly, I really don't see it within my organization. When you're at a top level, you have to grow up regardless if you're gay or straight—and that includes being more accepting of others. I think that when people go up through the ranks, there is fear of the 'big bosses' who might oppose a same-sex lifestyle and there is fear of potential failure. However, when you get to the top you are surrounded by a group of executives that worries a lot about employee satisfaction and retention. Part of that concern includes policies against discrimination. Again, I think that the relationships you build throughout your career are critical.
WCT: Why do you enjoy working at Accenture?
MZ: It's the people—not just the diverse group of talented people who work there but also the clients. I love the challenge of working with clients in different industries to help them grow and become more competitive in the marketplace. I also like that we're on the cutting edge of technology and it's exciting to ride new waves—it's just very, very exciting. I just feel like I found the right place and have passion for my work, as long as I can keep my balance with my family, friends, and community.
WCT: You have actually risen through the ranks pretty quickly there. Why do you think that is?
MZ: It's because I've delivered the results expected from me (which, of course, has nothing to do with being gay or straight). I've made commitments regarding my clients and the business about what to deliver—and I've come through with the results. I also set clear objectives for myself about what I wanted to be in two, five and 10 years.
WCT: Here's a hypothetical: Let's say a law was passed that enacted affirmative action for GLBT employees. How would you feel about such a law?
MZ: I would not be in favor of such a law. [Sexuality] should not matter when you hire.
WCT: Well, in a perfect world that would be true.
MZ: Yes, but I still wouldn't want a law like that. Your qualifications and performance should be all that matter during recruiting and career progression. Plus, you can't just ask somebody in an interview about his/her sexual orientation and you can't really tell from physical appearance. Again, it should not matter.
WCT: Here's a quote: 'Companies don't really care about sexual orientation; they care about profits and performance. [However,] they do know that gay people care about companies' policies.' What's your reaction to that statement?
MZ: In my opinion, a successful company needs to achieve a balance between good financial results (including profits and revenues) and motivated people. To have good people, you need a combination of satisfaction, diversity, and acceptance. One [part of the equation] shouldn't be more important than the other. High-performing companies are good at finding the right balance.
WCT: Do you have any advice for new GLBT employees entering the corporate arena?
MZ: Well, I would say to deliver the results—which is what I would tell anyone. I would also say to find a mentor who understands you. Trust that person and build a relationship with her or him. That person will help you in the company.
I would also tell someone that things take time. Don't expect acceptance right away. When you are new, people don't know you; it'll take a little while. That's probably my most important piece of advice.
I would also add that you should participate in any gay and lesbian support groups or networks in your organization. Obviously, some gay and lesbian employees won't be able to do this because some companies don't have such groups.
WCT: Any final words?
MZ: It's important to remember that success comes from delivering expected results and building key business relationships with people. Things will flow from there. Have some patience.
I'm at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Gay and Lesbian Census Begins
How does a mainstream American company tap into the gay market? Just what is the gay 'lifestyle?' Does it conjure up visions of a people immersed in fashion, travel, entertainment and art, or a life woven around relationships, family, religion, mortgages and children?
OpusComm Group, a gay/lesbian consumer marketing firm, together with Syracuse University, announced the launch of the 2004 Gay and Lesbian Consumer Online Census (G/L Census). The annual Internet study of GLBT consumers takes place July 12-Aug. 13, 2004. GLBT consumers ages 18+ interested in participating in the study—which measures the demographics, purchasing behaviors, life situations and media usage of GLBT consumers—are invited to log on to www.glcensus.org .
The G/L Census is conducted through a partnership between the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communication at Syracuse University, with Professor Amy Falkner as the lead researcher on the project, and OpusComm Group, Inc. The only survey of its kind to be sanctioned by a university and the most comprehensive study of gay and lesbian consumers in the U.S., the G/L Census is used by Fortune 1000 marketers and media companies as a tool for developing products and marketing tailored to GLBT consumers nationally. The 2003 G/L Census had approximately 8,000 respondents.
'We created the G/L Census four years ago for one reason: GLBT people want to be heard. That is why the theme of our survey is 'Stand Up and be Counted!,' said Jeffrey Garber, president of OpusComm Group, Inc. and a cofounder of the G/L Census. 'The GLBT community is better targeted and better served when the people behind the campaigns—be they politicians, media or business—know their audience.'