by David Thill
Originally published: June 21, 2017
Beth Brooke-Marciniak's decision to publicly come out as lesbian in 2011 made her one of the most senior out executives in the world at the time. But for Brooke-Marciniak, EY's ( formerly Ernst and Young ) global vice chair of public policy and the company's global sponsor of diversity and inclusiveness efforts, the decision wasn't about getting publicity. For her, it was simply about being honest. Brooke-Marciniak—a former Purdue University basketball player, who was awarded the NCAA's 2017 Theodore Roosevelt Award and has been named on Forbes's list of "The World's 100 Most Powerful Women" nine times—told her story to an audience at the Hyatt Regency Chicago on May 24, part of the 2017 Great Place to Work conference.
It happened on a plane, she said. Brooke-Marciniak ( at the time, just Brooke ) began with EY in 1981, and in 1990 became the company's first female partner in Indiana. Now, in 2011, EY's inclusiveness director had invited Brooke-Marciniak to offer the closing remarks in a video the company was making to support the "It Gets Better" campaign by The Trevor Project, the national suicide prevention organization for LGBTQ youth.
On her plane ride, as Brooke-Marciniak read over the speech her team had prepared for her—presented from the perspective of a straight executive—she thought to herself, "That's just not what I would say if I was being honest." So, she wrote her own script for the video, not only acknowledging her sexuality, but passing on the message to LGBTQ teenagers that they needed to feel valuable "because of their difference, not in spite of it."