Big strides are being made for women and the LGBTQ community in the world of big business. Yesterday, Land O'Lakes recently announced that Beth Ford would be taking on the role of president and CEO, becoming the first openly gay, female CEO of a Fortune 500 company.
Ford joins two small but growing groups among Fortune 500 CEOs. Of the top earning companies, only 24 CEOs are women and only three other CEOs are openly gay, according to Fortune. "If it gives someone encouragement and belief that they can be their authentic self and live their life and things are possible, then that's a terrific moment," Ford told the outlet, before adding that she remembers what it was like to not feel like she could be her true self at work in her twenties. "I think it must be really hard if you feel like you’re in a culture where you can’t be who you are. Work is hard enough, and then when you have to feel as though you can’t be who are, that’s got to be incredibly difficult."
Perhaps the best part of the Land O'Lakes announcement is that after singing her praises about her background, qualifications, and noteworthy contributions to the company so far, they end the press release with this: "Ford and her spouse, Jill Schurtz, have three teenage children and live in Minneapolis." That is the only mention of her sexual orientation. Rather than focusing on congratulating themselves for being the first Fortune 500 company to hire an openly gay, female CEO, they focus on how great a fit she is for the job and added the customary line about family the way they would for any other C-suite appointment.
Ford has her work cut out for her: Land O'Lakes is contending with newly imposed trade tariffs on U.S. dairy goods as an act of reprisal from China and Mexico to President Donald Trump's protectionist-motivated trade wars. Ford, who joined the company in 2011 after working at PepsiCo, seems more than up to the task. During her time at Land O'Lakes, she has already helped usher in technology-utilizing practices and research and development.