A SLOW POLICY SHIFT
Kidd says B-schools and major companies, alike, are listening to students and making changes. “A lot of the schools are already proactively building in gender and inclusion policies,” says Kidd noting gender-neutral restrooms, which are beginning to pop-up at universities. “They’re building gender-neutral bathroom facilities with the expectation there could be a transgender student who’s closeted or there could be one in the future,” explains Kidd, adding as of now he thinks there’s probably only a handful of out transgender MBAs.
Schools are also beginning to use Human Rights Campaign data and collect their own to measure inclusiveness of companies for on-campus, Kidd says. “They are making sure their students are aware of that,” insists Kidd. In particular, Kidd says the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business requires companies to answer five questions about the LGBT community in their company and makes sure students participating in on-campus recruiting are aware of those responses.
“I think it’s becoming a big focus for companies and I think schools are paying attention to that,” says Kidd. In the Human Rights Campaign’s 2016 rating of work environment for LGBT individuals, 407 companies world-wide scored a perfect 100–the most ever. To hit the 100 mark, companies must “have sexual orientation and gender identity non-discrimination protections explicitly included in all operations, both within the U.S. and extending to global operations.” Those policies also must extend to U.S. contractors. Companies must also have written policy against taking donations or benefits from religious organizations with “written policy of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.”
“Schools are paying attention to the fact companies want that diverse voice,” adds Kidd.
PAST THE DAYS OF THE ‘TRAGIC ESSAY’
For LGBT students applying to B-school, Kidd says to be authentic.
“I think we’re past the point where you have to have some sort of–I hate to use this language–tragic essay that you want to dwell on it,” explains Kidd. “You’re not going to get dinged because you mention it. To be really honest, it’s something schools want to know. But more importantly, they want to know how you’ve been involved in that community.”
Kidd also suggests contacting and establishing relationships with current students in LGBT clubs. “They are great internal referrals for the admissions offices,” he says.
But most importantly, Kidd recommends choosing a program that’s aligned with professional goals and a good fit before factoring in the LGBT community. “Across the board, schools are pretty in-line with one another,” says Kidd. “It becomes more of what’s the vibe, what are the people like and how active is the club if that’s important to you. Choose the best program for you and what you want to get out of it beyond LGBT issues.”
ELITE B-SCHOOLS ALL PROVIDE SUPPORTIVE, INCLUSIVE ENVIRONMENTS
Pearson chose Haas over a few other “top 10 schools” because of the culture and community. “I really identified and clicked with the people,” says Pearson, noting growing up in Mississippi he didn’t feel comfortable coming out until going to school in New Orleans. “I think I would have been happy at any of the other schools but the best fit was Haas.” Pearson suggests reaching out to LGBT club leadership at B-schools during the admissions process.
Redmond, who was born and raised in the U.K., was nervous about the inclusiveness and support at a United States B-school. But a campus-hosted LGBT event left her “impressed” by the climate at Wharton. “It never even crossed my mind not to be out in school,” she says.
“Wharton is an incredibly supportive and inclusive environment for LGBT students and more broadly for diversity on campus,” Redmond later adds, noting clubs for minorities and women at Wharton. “There are many events and programs throughout the year focused on making sure people feel comfortable being themselves on campus.”
Redmond says Wharton offers LGBT visit days where applicants can get a sense of “what it’s like to be out and what it’s like to be out with your partner at Wharton.”
As the report and clubs indicate, times are changing for the better on American B-school campuses.
“It’s no longer a question of do we talk about this, it’s now that we have to talk about this,” explains Kidd. “Because this is what the students want to hear–schools are seeing that and employers are seeing that.”