ACCESS TO ROLE MODELS AND NETWORK ‘TRANSFORMATIVE’
Meantime, Jessica Kaiser, a ROMBA fellow at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, says the inclusive community played a role, albeit not a large one in her B-school decision. A total quant and self-assured, “long-time” out-ed lesbian, Kaiser, 27, was looking for an analytic-heavy school first and an inclusive environment next. At Sloan, she says, she got both.
“The top 10 schools all were going to be supportive-enough environments,” she says. “The LGBT part wasn’t something I was considering as much at the time of applications.”
After earning her bachelor’s in mathematics from Northwestern University, and a two-year stint at Chicago-based IT firm, Mattersight, Kaiser jumped Midwest ship for her native California and tech-rich San Francisco. There she worked in data analytics for Rocket Fuel but soon wanted skills in business decision making to compliment her big data and analytic background. So she decided to pursue an MBA and landed on Sloan.
While the financial benefits of the fellowship are a bonus, Kaiser says having the ROMBA network to connect with individuals who have similar professional and personal aspirations is a big deal.
“I have been very privileged to have professional role models but have been limited with role models with the personal side,” Kaiser explains. “To have access to a network of role models with similar professionals aspirations and personal identities, I think will be transformative in terms of the vision I can create for myself and in what I can achieve.”
EDUCATION, CONSULTING BACKGROUND AND TECH-FOCUSED FUTURE LEAD ONE FELLOW TO FUQUA
For Boston-area native, Ben Chadwick, the desire to pursue an MBA stemmed from his passions for education, consulting, and technology. The 27-year-old majored in international relations and economics at Bowdoin College in Portland, Maine and did a stint with Teach for America and Washington D.C.-based boutique consulting firm, Kaiser Associates.
“I wanted to combine my background in education and consulting with the business side of technology to improve teacher and student performance and efficiencies,” Chadwick says.
Along with wanting to gain networks and connections in large tech companies, Chadwick says the diversity in interests and backgrounds combined with a strong Net Impact chapter led him to deciding on Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. Akin to Kaiser, Chadwick says he’s been out for a long time and felt many schools and top companies are in a place to embrace the LGBT community. Connections made within Fuqua and ROMBA, alike, will be “crucial” in helping him realize his dream of combing tech and education, Chadwick added.
NEW SCHOOLS JOINING FOR 2016
ROMBA is also using the announcement of this year’s fellows to welcome four more schools to the fellowship. For this year’s application cycle, students may also receive fellowships at Harvard Business School, London Business School, Michigan’s Ross School of Business and Cornell’s Johnson Graduate School of Business.
Kidd says the international schools involved, in particular, are encouraging because he sees business and business schools, specifically, playing a role in changing LGBT feelings across the world. “For LBS, I think there was an interest in tying the school to the greater movement in the U.S.,” Kidd reasons. “Both with LBS and the Rotman School of Management in Toronto, you see two international schools wanting to be involved in the movement that they feel is much larger.”
And Kidd believes a lot of that movement stems from business.
“I think over the past five years or so, you had a lot of really big brands stepping up and saying, ‘you know what, it’s not OK to treat people differently. It’s unfair not to recognize equality here,’” Kidd says. “So big business really had an impact and I think people started to realize that. And granted, there are a lot of initiatives going on in the nonprofit community as well that push the marriage cause, in particular, forward.”
Still, if the recent Kim Davis debacle is any indicator, issues still very much exist.
“I think a lot of folks recognize there’s still work to do,” says Kidd. “There are a number of states where you can get married, put your picture of your same-sex significant other on your desk, and hypothetically get fired for doing that because there’s not equal protection.”
Kidd also cites other countries around the world where being gay is still very much illegal and even dangerous. “A business school increasingly skews a bit more international,” explains Kidd. “I think it’s an education opportunity and a lot of the schools themselves recognize that, and so, it brings to the plate the diversity of thought component.”