The definition of “family” and its members continues to evolve. Bruce Jenner’s transition to Caitlyn has created quite a buzz. It is estimated that 700,000 Americans, 0.2% of the population, are transgender. On June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right for same-sex couples to marry in all 50 states.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people are and will continue seeking committed, lifelong adult partnerships and many will raise children. These societal changes, whether you are in favor of them or against them, are a fact. It is also a fact that many multi-generational family businesses are composed of family members who live outside the traditional “Ozzie and Harriet” family world.
Some families try to hide these facts. However, more and more are displaying open acceptance of those living differently from themselves and welcoming family members into the business. Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, is showing the business community that a gay person can lead and grow what many consider the most innovative, highest-valued enterprise on the planet.
We serve family firms with LGBT family members who are contributing to the well-being of business. We also observe family members who have not felt welcomed and therefore have chosen other career options outside the family business. While family firms tend to be more conservative and slower to accept these societal changes, those that have been more welcoming have helped their own culture evolve while developing a more tolerant and understanding value in the workplace.