Apple CEO Tim Cook (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

Apple chief executive Tim Cook publicly stated he is gay in an editorial published by Bloomberg Businessweek Thursday.

While Cook has been open about his sexuality in his private life, and numerous outlets have alluded to or outright commented on his orientation, this is the first time he has addressed it directly in public. And according to Businessweek editor Josh Tyrangiel, he consulted with his board before approaching the publication with his statement.

"He told me he spoke to the board and the board gave him utter and complete support," Tyrangiel said in a video accompanying the editorial. Tyrangiel also said that not publicly acknowledging his sexuality had "gnawed" on the chief executive, who succeeded Apple co-founder Steve Jobs in 2011.

"I don’t consider myself an activist, but I realize how much I’ve benefited from the sacrifice of others," Cook wrote. "So if hearing that the CEO of Apple is gay can help someone struggling to come to terms with who he or she is, or bring comfort to anyone who feels alone, or inspire people to insist on their equality, then it’s worth the trade-off with my own privacy."

Apple CEO Tim Cook publicly came out as gay in an editorial published by Bloomberg Businessweek on Thursday. Cook said he hopes to help move civil rights forward. (Reuters)

Even while public sentiment has shifted dramatically in favor of LGBT rights in recent years, the business world continues to be an area with few openly gay leaders. "There has never been in my searching a CEO who has voluntary stepped out as a fortune 500 CEO and said 'I'm gay,'" Tyrangiel noted in the video.

A New York Times story in May addressed the lack of openly gay executives among the world's top companies, noting that the business community often trailed the rest of society when it comes to accepting new norms. "Even today, only 48 of the 1,000 largest companies — or 5 percent — have a woman in charge," Claire Cain Miller wrote. "The first African-American Fortune 500 chief executive ascended to his job a mere 15 years ago."

Cook noted in his editorial that while the world has changed since he was a boy growing up in Alabama, there remain many barriers to equality for LGBT individuals -- including legal ones.

"Still, there are laws on the books in a majority of states that allow employers to fire people based solely on their sexual orientation," he wrote. "There are many places where landlords can evict tenants for being gay, or where we can be barred from visiting sick partners and sharing in their legacies."