Fri, Jun 27, 2014 2:36 PM EDT 3:39
Former BP CEO Lord John Browne says the biggest lesson he learned at a very young age from his mother, a Holocaust survivor, was to try and fit in as much as possible. Browne says the words in his head were, ‘as a minority, make sure you don’t look too obvious because when things get rough, minorities get hurt.’ His mother says she knew that from her own experience having survived Auschwitz. Browne, who joined BP in 1969, just a few years after homosexuality became legal in the U.K., says he never considered coming out while he worked at the oil company. Browne says over his 38-year career, he never encountered any outright discrimination; it was only after his homosexuality was made public by a British tabloid that a verbal offer to join the board of directors at Walmart was rescinded by the retailer’s CEO. Would that happen today? Browne says minds of people in positions to make those kinds of decisions are changing, but he says most boards are very conservative and that ‘people want to appoint people who are like themselves.’ Browne says that is a big reason why women and those in the LGBT community have had a difficult time coming on boards. TheStreet's Ruben Ramirez spoke with Browne on Wall Street.