Elite LGBT MBAs At All-Time High

Matt Kidd, executive director of Reaching Out (ROMBA). Courtesy photo

Matt Kidd, executive director of Reaching Out (ROMBA). Courtesy photo

INCREASED EDUCATION IN ALLY COMMUNITY

For the first time ever, the report included a “Friendfactor” to measure LGBT acceptance at MBA programs. Nearly 3,000 students from 23 elite MBA programs were surveyed to gauge inclusiveness and culture within MBA programs. Interestingly, more than 8% of the survey respondents identified as “gay” or “lesbian”–double the number of self-identifying out MBAs reported by the school clubs. An outstanding 87.84% either agreed or strongly agreed people on their campuses are aware of LGBT “issues and current events.”

The majority (39.42%) of MBA students have heard someone speak up about LGBT issues on their campus “a few times.” More than 24% say they’ve heard someone speak up about LGBT issues “sometimes.” And just about 13% say they’ve “never” heard someone speak up about LGBT issues.

“Overall, there’s a higher education of what the LGBT community’s issues are both among the LGBT community and, more importantly, the ally community,” reasons Kidd.

SOME ‘NATURAL TENSIONS’ STILL PERSIST

Still, the results also showed some residual tensions might still exist. For instance, nearly 8% of respondents “strongly agree” LGBT students are “expected not to act too gay.” About 11% of the respondents claimed to be neutral, in disagreement or strong disagreement that LGBT students “feel free to bring their same-sex partners to school events.”

Kidd thinks those results might stem from the increasing international population of American B-schools and differing LGBT policies across countries. “There could be students from a place like India where being out as LGBT is a criminal offense,” explains Kidd. “And that can put them in an awkward position when they get to the United States.”

Indeed, only about 20 countries world-wide have some form of legalized same-sex marriage, the majority of which are in Europe. Still, overall, Kidd believes the current generation of MBA students are the ones leading the conversation of inclusiveness.

“The loudest voice I hear in terms of ‘we need to get more LGBT, we need to bring more women into this to make sure we’re looking at all aspects of diversity,’ is actually coming from the current students,” explains Kidd. “And I think as we see more and more of the younger side of the millennial generation, that’s going to continue to be true.”

SEEKING A MORE DIVERSE C-SUITE

And that’s certainly the case within B-school LGBT clubs. Jordan Pearson, an MBA student and co-president of Q@Haas, says the next level of LGBT business progression is to get more representation in the C-Suite.

“When you look at a lot of companies, the C-Suite is predominately straight white men,” Pearson maintains. “Companies are hiring a very diverse workforce but it takes time for that to reach the top. Executives at various companies need to truly reflect the populations they serve–whether that’s sexuality, race or gender–and it will take time for the diverse people they’re hiring now to progress in their careers.”

Jennifer Redmond, a co-president of Out4Business and MBA candidate at The Wharton School, says a cultural shift in business falls on current business students.

“The next level is for people to understand the business piece for diversity and creating a supportive and inclusive environment wherever they are working after business school,” says Redmond, noting more research on business productivity and inclusive and supportive work environments is necessary. “I think people are broadly accepting of LGBT student and being out, but by creating an environment at work where LGBT people are comfortable about themselves and their whole identity, it really has a huge business impact.”