Pride Month: Business Schools Take Pride In Their Scholarships

Matthew Foster is a weekend MBA student at Imperial College London

In the U.S. and a growing number of other countries, June is ‘Pride Month’, dedicated to celebrating and supporting LGBTQ+ voices, culture, and rights. Business schools around the world are increasingly starting to address and support LGBTQ+ rights from within their own institutions.

Many graduate business programmes are broadening their recruitment and outreach efforts to attract LGBTQ+ candidates. Findings from the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) shows that 31% of full-time MBA programmes in the US conducted special outreach to members of the LGBTQ+ community in 2020.

One way to specifically reach out is through LGBTQ+ focused scholarships, some of which are made available through partnering with various organizations. Reaching Out MBA is a non-profit organization dedicated to educating, inspiring, and connecting the LGBTQ+ MBA community to enact change in the workplace and create the next generation of ‘out’ leaders.

REACHING OUT FELLOWSHIPS FOR LGBTQ+ LEADERS

Schools including Berkeley Haas, Chicago Booth, Columbia, Duke Fuqua, Harvard Business School, Kellogg, MIT Sloan, NYU Stern, Toronto Rotman UCLA Anderson and Yale SOM have partnered with them to offer the Reaching Out MBA (ROMBA) Fellowship to students who have demonstrated leadership in the LGBTQ+ community and a commitment to the advancement of LGBTQ+ in business. As well as receiving financial aid, eligible students can also access the organisation’s mentoring and development programmes.

Berkeley Haas has already witnessed the profound impact support through funding and inclusive engagement can have on the LGBTQ+ community, with 14% of their MBA Class of 2023 identifying as part of the community. However, Eric Askins, Executive Director of Admissions at Haas, says, “It’s more than simply an interest in growing the size of the community – we’ve also worked closely with our student community and increasing belonging and curating spaces with students to ensure they can bring their whole selves to the programme.”

University of Florida (UF), Warrington School of Business is another U.S. school able to offer the ROMBA through Reaching Out MBA. Their Director of Admissions for MBA programmes, Naz Erenguc, highlights the benefit of community-focused scholarships: “These scholarships ensure that, at UF, everyone has a seat at the table. Diversity isn’t just an aspiration for us, it’s something we intentionally cultivate by opening the classroom for anyone, regardless of background and identity. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it adds value to our programme by helping us shape future business leaders who look and think differently than the people who sat in those seats in a previous time.”

SCHOLARSHIP RECIPIENTS TAKE ON A LEADERSHIP ROLE

One of Reaching Out MBA’s partners in the U.K. is Imperial College Business School, joining more than 60 other top business schools. As well as financial support, recipients take on a role in the leadership team of the LGBTQ+ and Allies Club and represent Imperial as part of the Student Ambassador Scheme. One such recipient and Weekend MBA student, Matthew Foster, considers the ROMBA fellowship to have been a key factor in applying to Imperial:

“The fact that Imperial College Business School offered and promoted the Reaching Out MBA Scholarship was a tangible sign of the School’s commitment to driving LGBTQ+ inclusion in business, business education, and wider society. All too often, organisations say they support diversity, inclusion, and belonging, but real actions that can shift the needle for marginalised groups are not forthcoming; warm words alone do not lead to a more equitable society, action does.”

Foster also explains how important it is to have these scholarships available to increase the visible presence of LGBTQ+ people in the business world, especially as some individuals feel the need to hide their sexuality or identity in the workplace. He says, “Businesses are missing out on getting the full experiences, skills, and perspectives of these individuals whilst they are having to hide who they are. By promoting role models from across business we can break down some of the misconceptions that exist and show people that you can both be LGBTQ+ and a leader in business.

‘SCHOLARSHIPS ARE A VISIBLE COMMITMENT TO CREATING DIVERSE COHORTS’

Rebecca Loades, Director of Career Accelerator Programmes at ESMT Berlin

“Offering LGBTQ+ focused scholarships not only broaden access to a group who are far more likely to have no family support in place, or challenges with the costs given the sexuality pay gap.” LGBTQ+ advocacy group, HRC Foundation, recently found that LGBTQ+ workers earn around 90 cents for every dollar earned by a heterosexual worker. “It also shows a visible commitment to creating a diverse cohort of business leaders.”

Askins acknowledges that there is still more that needs to be done in regards to highlighting LGBTQ+ individuals in the business world: “I don’t think we’ve hit a point where we can see we’ve done enough. We continue to iterate, driven by our student community and alumni to find different ways to bring forward different perspectives and highlight different stories.”

Increasing the visibility of LGBTQ+ individuals within business is an important reason behind the introduction of targeted scholarships in business schools. Rebecca Loades, Director of Career Accelerator Programmes at ESMT Berlin, cites this as the reasoning behind the launch of the Rainbow Scholarship at the German business school.

‘WE PERFORM OUR BEST WHEN WE CAN BE OURSELVES’

“We perform our best when we can be ourselves, and everyone should be able to bring their true selves to work. There are still too few role models of openly-out LGBTQ+ leaders and managers despite estimates that more than 5% of the global population has a sexual orientation other than heterosexual. How each business supports its LGBTQ+ employees may vary, but common to all must be to ensure that all employees feel welcome and respected, and are not subject to any discriminatory behaviour.”

ESMT Berlin launched their Rainbow Scholarship this year to signal their commitment to rich learning environments that actively encourage and celebrate diversity. Loades further explains, “Berlin is a cosmopolitan, welcoming city that treasures and values self-expression. Germany is one of the most LGBTQ+-friendly countries in the world, and our programmes successfully bring together diverse perspectives that reflect the multi-faceted world we live and work in today.”

As well as the financial benefits and the increased visibility scholarships offer those from the LGBTQ+ community, they also allow recipients to build and grow their networks, allowing individuals to learn from each other.

A BROAD RAINBOW COALITION

“I have been connected to a diverse group of future business leaders at different MBA programmes all around the world, all committed to driving LGBTQ+ inclusion in our different spheres of influence,” explains Imperial’s Matthew Foster. “The LGBTQ+ community is such a broad rainbow coalition, and only by listening to and promoting each of the varied identities and experiences within it can we truly create the change we want to see. This is of even greater importance when we consider the global nature of business today; the experience of LGBTQ+ people, the challenges we face, and the barriers we must break down are fundamentally different in different parts of the world.”

Many other business schools are starting to introduce LGBTQ+ focused scholarships and fellowships with similar goals: the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania award their Prism Fellowship to one outstanding MBA student each year who is both a member of and demonstrates leadership in support of the LGBTQ+ community, and the University of Edinburgh Business School offers two Positive Action for LGBT+ scholarships for Master students committed to making a difference within the community.

And it’s not just the business schools offering scholarships and fellowships. Point Foundation (Point) is the largest scholarship-granting organisation in the U.S. for LGBTQ+ individuals of merit, promoting change through funding, mentorship, leadership development, and community service training.

Point IS able to provide direct financial contribution toward the costs of attending top education institutions throughout the US, including tuition, housing, textbooks, and class fees, but also goes beyond the financial support. Point also pair each scholarship recipient with a mentor while participating in leadership development programmes and events.

Being able to access business education is of vital importance for those of the LGBTQ+ community if we want to see positive change in the world. “Business Schools are where many of the business leaders of tomorrow are forged,” states Foster. “Currently, there are no openly LGBTQ+ CEOs in the entire FTSE 100 in the UK, and just four in the Fortune 500 in the U.S., and the figures for other senior positions are not much better. If we are to change this and truly have equal opportunities for all, regardless of identity, business schools have a critical role to play.”

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