Land O’Lakes, the 97-year-old purveyor of butter, has named Beth Ford as its new president and CEO, making her the first lesbian head of a Fortune 500 company at a time of some turmoil thanks trade tariffs put in place following Donald Trump’s trade war, according to Fortune.
The move to seat Ford at the head of the company also makes her only the third gay CEO and the 25th woman to head a Fortune 500 company.
Ford, who rose through the ranks within the Minnesota-based company, said that her potential to break ground as the first lesbian to run a Fortune 500 company was not discussed with the board, but she did say of her gender and sexual orientation, “it’s not nothing.”
"I made a decision long ago to live an authentic life and if my being named CEO helps others do the same, that's a wonderful moment," Ford said, according to CNN.
Prior to landing the CEO gig at the Land O’Lakes, Ford had served at several companies in executive operations and management roles, including at International Flavors and Fragrances, Mobil, PepsiCo and Pepsi Bottling Company and Scholastic. Most recently, she was the chief operating officer of Land O’Lakes Businesses, in which role she oversaw Land O’Lakes’ WinField United, Purina Animal Nutrition, and Dairy Foods business units, according to the company’s website.
A native of Sioux City, Iowa, Ford earned an MBA at Columbia University Business School and a BBA at Iowa State University.
Currently, Ford resides in Minneapolis with her wife, Jill Schurtz, and their three teen children, according to Fortune.
"I am extraordinarily grateful to work at a company that values family, including my own," Ford told CNN. "The board chose the person they felt best met the criteria to drive success in the business. I realize this is an important milestone for many people and I am pleased to share it."
The Human Rights Campaign praised Ford’s leadership in being out on the job.
"Her authentic leadership as an out lesbian is well-known in the LGBT corporate community, and the fact that she is assuming this role as an out lesbian sends an especially powerful message," HRC’s director of workplace equality, Deena Fidas, told CNN. "This is not a story of someone getting into the higher echelons of leadership and then coming out, this is someone walking into this role with her full self."