Historic moment as first out lesbian appointed CEO of Fortune 500 company

Land O'Lakes has named openly gay woman Beth Ford as CEO and President of the organisation, making her the first out lesbian to hold the position in a Fortune 500 company.

PHOTO OF LAND O'LAKES CEO BETH FORD

From August 1, Beth Ford will take the reigns as CEO of food and agricultural cooperative, Land O’Lakes, which is ranked number 216 in the Fortune 500 list. The Fortune 500 is an annual list compiled and published by Fortune magazine that ranks 500 of the largest United States corporations by total revenue for their respective fiscal years.

Ford becomes one of only 25 women to hold the position of CEO of a Fortune 500 company. She is the third openly gay CEO of a Fortune 500 company and the first woman, Apple’s Tim Cook and the Dow Chemical Company’s Jim Fitterlingare being the other two.

Ford joined the company in 2011 and has over 20 years experience in using research and development and technology to strengthen brands.

She said it didn’t even come up in her discussions with the board. But she conceded that “it’s not nothing.”

The company released a statement on Thursday announcing her appointment with no mention of this being a landmark moment.

It did state in the announcement that Ford is married to a woman:

“Ford and her spouse, Jill Schurtz, have three teenage children and live in Minneapolis.” She told fortune.com that Jill is “the greatest fortune of her life”.

Ford told Fortune she was not sure she was seeking to be a role model as one of the few openly gay Fortune 500 CEOs, but she said “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.”

She said she remembers what it was like to be in her 20s and not feeling as though she could bring her full self to work.

“I think I’ve been fortunate since my mid-30s of being just who I am,” she said. “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.”

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