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MICHAEL S. FULLER

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Advice

All of your assets wear shoes and they can exercise their right to use them to walk away, so treat them like you want to be treated.

 

(Editor’s Note: The following narrative is in Mike’s own words.)

I consider myself fortunate to live during a time that has been so consequential for LGBT individuals and the community of people who until the latter part of the 20th century lived their lives secretly and dangerously in the margins of society. My awakening to the role that I might play came as I was beginning my 20-year career as a senior executive at IBM. Gay and lesbian professionals were rarely out in corporate life during the late 1980s and early 1990s. But things were changing rapidly, and I found myself in the right place at the right time. I was fortunate to have very accepting teammates who allowed me to build up courage (over time) to be fully out at IBM – even as my role expanded to a global one where interaction with customers naturally led to a discussion of your personal life as you built business relationships.

My IBM executive mentors provided me the “ground cover”—in fact, encouraged me to push the envelope and make it easier for other closeted IBMers come out. I consider my work at IBM to be groundbreaking, as I led one of the first global corporate efforts to recognize and tap the expanding LGBT marketplace. I commissioned the first global study of the power and value of the LGBT marketplace, which led to the first LGBT-focused sales team at IBM and my service as the co-chair of IBM’s global Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

As an insider corporate champion, I guided IBM to sponsor transformative organizations like GLAAD, GLSEN, HRC, Stonewall UK and others at a pivotal time during the explosive growth of their political and societal influence. Beyond providing critical financial support, I provided executive mentorship to the boards of directors and executives of these organizations. My confidence and profile as an out executive at IBM enabled me to mentor IBM LGBT employees and groups across Europe, the Middle East, Latin America and Asia.

I also pioneered diversity programs and anti-bullying initiatives. I continued my advocacy work as a Senior Vice President at UnitedHealth Group, where I was appointed to the UHG Global Diversity and Inclusion Council. I quickly secured UHG’s corporate support to become a founding sponsor of the first European Diversity Awards. My volunteer and community service include serving as a founding board member and two-term Chairman of the Board of the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. I have also served on the Board of Directors of the Hetrick-Martin Institute, an organization dedicated to the financial and legal support of at-risk LGBT youth, including the founding of the Harvey Milk High School. I recently was appointed to the Board of Directors of the Victory Institute to help educate and prepare LGBTQ candidates for local and national office.

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