Krannert graduate Beth Brooke was a featured speaker in June at 40 For 40: 40 Years of Title IX, 40 Women Who Have Made an Impact, hosted by Women in Cable Telecommunications (WICT). Pictured from left to right: nationally syndicated sports columnist Christine Brennan; Brooke; National Training Center Director and Medical Director Dr. Dot Richardson; NASA astronaut Dr. Sandra Magnus; The White House Senior Policy Advisor for Native American Affairs Jodi Gillette; and ESPN SportsCenter anchor Lindsay Czarniak. (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for WICT)
Alumna Beth Brooke sets the tone at the top
Smart. Friendly. Kind. Open. Conversant. Accomplished. Named by Forbes as one of the world’s most powerful women. Meet Beth Brooke, honorary doctor of management, global vice chair of public policy for Ernst & Young and an ardent advocate for responsible and transparent capital markets and the role of women in economic growth and development.
On this sultry summer day (July 25), Brooke (BSIM ’81, HDR ’12) is in her office in New York, a rarity given that she travels constantly in her job overseeing public policy for the firm’s operations in 140 countries. This is also the day The Wall Street Journal has featured another side of Beth Brooke –– she’s gay. The article explores the gay population among CEOs, a group she acknowledged being a part of a year ago when she came out of a closet she’d inhabited for 52 years.
For two decades, Brooke hid her sexual identity, fearing that she would be defined as gay and nothing else. “All I could think about regarding coming out was walking into our boardroom and everyone thinking, ‘There’s the gay one’ versus ‘There’s the expert in regulatory issues,’” she says. “I was petrified by the redefinition of me.”
It was in 2011, while working on the script for an Ernst & Young video collaboration with an organization focused on suicide prevention in gay teens, that Brooke came clean. She decided to practice what she, as a leader, was preaching and came out during the video premiere to a standing ovation, followed by a tidal wave of supportive communication from many among the company’s 155,000 employees.
“I totally underestimated the impact on our people,” she says. “In my mind, it was all about me. It is important for senior executives to be out if you’re gay. People need to see leaders being who they are. In our organization, if everyone can bring their entire self into the workplace, they will achieve their potential and we will achieve our potential.”
With the momentary flurry of interest in her personal life aside, Brooke is glad to return the focus to a topic close to her heart — and identity: women as economic engines of growth.
“I think women represent a lot of untapped potential as economic engines in all parts of the world, including the developed world. That is why I am so committed to getting more of them into positions of leadership and so committed to supporting their development as entrepreneurs,” she says.