5 LGBTQIA+ CEOs Who Inspire and Lead with Service

Beyond the Lavender Ceiling: LGBTQIA+ CEOs You Should Know

If you’re an aspiring CEO and part of the LGBTQIA+ community, there are several CEOs within your community  who can help shape your path and serve as inspiration.

Despite companies publicly showing support, queer employees often hit what’s called the lavender ceiling which is akin to the glass ceiling women face in the workplace. They’re only able to progress so far in their career due to their identity. There are only four openly LGBTQIA+ CEOs leading Fortune 500 companies, none of whom are bisexual or transgender.

Recognizing and celebrating the strides Black LGBTQIA+ CEOs have been able to make is important for the culture and future CEOs navigating their own journeys. Here are five LGBTQIA+ CEOs in finance, government, nonprofit, and theatre to prime your path.

1. Lule Demmissie, eToro

CEO of eToro, Lule Demmissie attends The Future of Everything presented by the Wall Street Journal at Spring Studios on May 17, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Steven Ferdman/Getty Images)
(Photo by Steven Ferdman/Getty Images)
With a work history including JP Morgan, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, TD Ameritrade, and Ally, Lule Demmissie went on to become the US CEO of eToro in 2021. Demmissie immigrated to the US from Ethiopia at 16 and has an MBA from Columbia Business School.
eToro, an Israeli company, is a retail investing app that uses aspects of social media and networking. In an eToro press release, Demmissie says, “I believe that having more practitioners and people-oriented toward inclusion as problem solvers in the room when creating policy will lead to capital formation.”

2. Michael D. Smith, AmeriCorps

@americorps/Instagram
To be sitting here in my full self, being supported by the president of the United States, and making an impact on thousands of communities, it means the world to me.”

3. Lanaya Irvin, Coqual

Lanaya Irvin
@bootbagbourbon/Instagram

Armed with an MBA from Texas McCombs School of Business, Lanaya Irvin has worked for Bank of America as vice president and senior vice president in several roles. She arrived at Coqual in 2020 as president, and, in just one year, was promoted to CEO.

Coqual, formerly the Center for Talent Innovation, is a 19-year-old think tank that conducts research on workplace diversity, equity, and inclusion and advises the world’s largest corporations. Irvin wrote for Fast Company, “The problem is that championing diversity and inclusion is still seen as a sideline, rather than a path to leadership. White men can opt in or out, which is precisely why they often take a pass. This has to change.”

4. Sonya Shields, Cause Effective

@sonyashields/Instagram

Switching to non-profit, Sonya Shields attended Howard University, worked for the
Cause Effective works with nonprofits to develop, employ, and expand fundraising, governance, and organizational strategies to advance equity and justice. Shields says on the Cause Effective website, “Movement towards social justice and equity is through allyship and action.  It’s examining governance, the culture of the organization, and dismantling management practices, systems and processes that are not inclusive and equitable.”

5. Sabriaya Shipley (she/they), Griot Girls


@griotgirls/Instagram
Coming from the Philadelphia Young Playwrights, Sabriaya Shipley co-founded Griot Girls, a writing collective for young Black girls. Shipley has a Master of Arts from Prescott College and became the Philadelphia Theatre’s first openly queer executive director.
Aside from being a playwright, Shipley is also a poet, educator, storyteller, artist, and community ethnographer. On Philadelphia Theatre’s website, she shares, “I am determined to continue to be open to studying, receiving, and cultivating decolonized art spaces. Spaces centered around preserving underrepresented stories.”
Some queer people have found success through entrepreneurship, filling gaps in the market with their unique perspectives and experience. This is not only a testament to the value of diversity but could be a direct response to how difficult corporate environments are for LGBTQIA+ individuals. LGBTQIA+ CEOs are not only an inspiration but also help open doors for the next generation.
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