Real Diversity Leadership: CEOs of E&Y, AT&T on Boy Scout Gay Ban

Diversity leadership is displayed by two CEOs supporting diversity in response to the Boy Scouts' ban on gay leaders. Both are on the scouts' executive board.

Real diversity leadership means taking a public stand for inclusion, even when it means breaking barriers. Ernst & Young Chairman and CEO Jim Turley was the first member of the Boy Scouts of America's executive board to publicly urge the scouts to change the policy of excluding gay and lesbian adult leaders.  AT&T Chairman, President and CEO Randall Stephenson, another Scouts board member, also issued a statement supporting diversity and inclusion.


Both companies are long-time diversity and inclusion leaders; Ernst & Young is No. 6 on The 2012 DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list and No. 4 in The DiversityInc Top 10 Companies for LGBT Employees. AT&T is No. 4 in the DiversityInc Top 50 and No. 8 in The DiversityInc Top 10 Companies for LGBT Employees. Both companies have a 100 percent rating on workplace equality for LGBT people from the Human Rights Campaign.

Boy Scouts & Gay Issues 

While undeniably a great American institution for youth development, the Boy Scouts have battled the issue of gay scoutmasters and volunteer leaders, as well as openly gay scouts, for more than a decade.

Last summer, the scouts announced they would review a resolution that would allow individual chapters to decide whether to accept gay and lesbian adult leaders, in response to an issue surfaced when Jennifer Tyrrell, a lesbian mother in Ohio, was ousted as a den mother. Petitions circulated on her behalf.

Turley's public statement was the first by a board member and a corporate leader and is demonstrable of the public stands he has taken to support diversity and inclusion. Turley spoke at DiversityInc's event last year about his public pronouncement for the rights of women in Saudi Arabia, for example.

In his announcement on the scouts, he said: "I support the meaningful work of the Boy Scouts in preparing young people for adventure, leadership, learning and service; however, the membership policy is not one I would personally endorse. As I have done in leading Ernst & Young to being a most inclusive organization, I intend to continue to work from within the BSA Board to actively encourage dialogue and sustainable progress."

Stephenson did not go as far as Turley, but he stressed the importance of diversity and inclusion, saying they "are part of AT&T's culture and operations, and we're proud to be recognized as a leader in this area. We don't agree with every policy of every organization we support, nor would we expect them to agree with us on everything. Our belief is that change at any organization must come from within to be successful and sustainable."

Why Diversity Leadership Makes a Difference

These two CEOs are examples of the type of real diversity leadership that moves corporate policies and changes external organizations. DiversityInc's  interviews with CEOs from several companies show their CEOs are publicly supportive of diversity management and efforts to create workforces that clearly are inclusive. They also hold executives accountable directly for diversity-management results that benefit the business, a best practice emphasized in our recent diversity web seminar on CEO commitment.

Externally, they take a very visible and proactive stance to support diversity and inclusion. Both Turley and Stephenson are examples of the type of leadership that changes an organization and changes American and global culture.

--Barbara Frankel

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