‘There’s Room For Everyone’: How MBAs At An Elite Business School Celebrate Pride Month

'There's Room For Everyone': How Stanford GSB Celebrates Pride Month

Photo collage by Kristen Valent

It’s been over 50 years since the Stonewall Riots—a catalyst for the gay rights movement in the United States and around the world. Pride Month, which begins each year on the first of June, nods to this monumental time in history, celebrating the liberation of the LGBTQ+ community — and marking its ongoing struggle for acceptance and equal rights.

At Stanford Graduate School of Business, Pride celebrations aren’t exclusive to the month of June. Bruno Rigonatti Mendes, a member of the MBA Class of 2024, says Pride events throughout the year include field days, watch parties, Thanksgiving dinners, a Drag 101 session to talk about the rise of anti-trans legislation in the U.S., and a school-wide gathering in honor of International Day Against Homophobia, Biphopia, and Transphobia.

“Historically, Pride communities have gathered at bars and nightclubs on the fringes of society,” Mendes says. “We’re trying to change that.”


“There’s a lot that’s been done over the last 50 years since the Stonewall riots,” adds Kevin Liang, MBA ‘23. “Pride Month is a spark of hope for future generations.”

The GSB LGBTQ+ community represents around 10% of the school’s 2024 class. This month, the business school is amplifying queer voices by sharing their stories on the GSB social media accounts, hosting a Pride celebration, and collaborating with other business school programs to unite LGBTQ+ students and alumni in the Bay Area.

But celebrating the Pride community won’t stop after this month. Sophia Fang, MBA ‘24, says Pride allyship must be a daily commitment; it can’t just be a corporate virtue signaling tool.

“I want to urge folks to think about how we stand up for the LGBTQ+ community every single day of the year—especially given the current socio-political climate,” she says.

Here, Poets&Quants highlights four GSB students’ experiences as part of the Pride community:


'There's Room For Everyone': How Stanford GSB Celebrates Pride Month

Maggie Gratz: “Being able to take a step back and remember the shoulders on which we stand is core to truly embracing the joy and fullness of Pride Month”

Philadelphia-raised Maggie Gratz describes her earliest memories being in her dad’s art studio, the family garage. “My parents started a small business together when I was a kid, and their creativity and resilience undoubtedly exposed me to the power of entrepreneurship.”

But it was her experience in the nonprofit world, rather than her early exposure to entrepreneurship, that inspired Gratz to apply to Stanford. After pursuing her bachelor’s in global development and her master’s in public policy at the University of Virginia, she received a Fulbright grant to teach English and support local education projects in Jaffna, Sri Lanka. Following the Easter bombings in the country’s capital, Colombo, Gratz returned to the U.S., this time to Baltimore, Maryland in 2019, embracing a role in political campaign management.

Looking to combine her passion for community-led development with foreign policy, Gratz joined the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, a U.S. resettlement agency, as deputy chief of staff. “The Afghan resettlement crisis shook our team to its core, and when policy couldn’t move fast enough, we had to heavily rely on the private sector.” she says. “We mobilized significant and robust support, but I couldn’t help but wonder what could have been possible if more individuals working in the space, myself included, had substantial cross-sector experience and business acumen. That’s when I began to think seriously about MBA programs.”

Since beginning at the GSB in 2022 with her fiance, Gratz says she’s never been part of a cohort environment that’s as welcoming as Stanford’s. She’s candid about the fact that adjusting to B-school hasn’t been challenge-free—and yet she is grateful to be surrounded by peers and professors “who challenge [her] and underscore the importance of dreaming bigger.”

“GSB Pride has uniquely contributed to my sense of home at Stanford,” she says.

To Gratz, Pride Month is an opportunity for reflection. “It’s a time to revel in humanity’s fierce belief in, and willingness to fight for, love and human connection,” she explains. “And it’s a humbling reminder of the beautiful array of individuals who exist within and in support of the broader LGBTQIA+ community—past, present, and future.”

“There’s room for everyone,” she continues. “Pride is a celebration of who we are, as we are. Being able to take a step back and remember the shoulders on which we stand is core to truly embracing the joy and fullness of Pride Month.”

Following graduation, Gratz wants to dive into the private sector, and will spend the upcoming summer at BCG in San Francisco. Longer term, she’s intrigued by the future of philanthropy and hopes to create an organization that leads cross-sector partnership-building that strategically aligns with local, state, and national priorities.


'There's Room For Everyone': How Stanford GSB Celebrates Pride Month

Sophia Fang: “I want to strive to wear my queerness as a badge of honor, now and in the future”

Seattle, Washington’s Sophia Fang is passionate about combining technology and social impact. She’s done so in a multitude of ways: First, as the founder of a nonprofit called Health Bridges, which helps immigrant patients navigate language and translation barriers in the healthcare system. Then, as the head of marketing at the fintech startup, Honeycomb Credit, where she helped small businesses crowdfund loans from their community. Throughout each role, she has celebrated the stories of immigrant, refugee women, and queer entrepreneurs through her work as a professional mural artist.

But her entrepreneurial spirit doesn’t end there; after suffering from chronic migraines and headaches, she came to the GSB to build her own digital health social venture to empower those who struggle with similar health issues: Peachy Day. “I think it’s going to be a lifelong mission for me to be an advocate around women’s health and disability awareness,” she shares. “I want to make sure that folks are able to access quality health care, regardless of where they belong and what background they come from.”

The GSB has been more than a place to build her venture — it’s also the first Pride community in which Fang has been openly part of. “I wasn’t aware of my queer identity until my early twenties, and then I was only out in my art spaces, but not necessarily at work,” she shares.

“When I came to the GSB, I was at a phase in my life where I didn’t want to hide myself,” she continues. “The Pride community at the GSB was accepting from the very start.”

To Fang, Pride month is about celebrating her and her fellow community members’ rights to exist as their full selves, without fear of repercussion. “I want to strive to wear my queerness as a badge of honor, now and in the future. I hope to build communities that allow LGBQT+ folks to shape our careers around living unapologetically,” shares Fang.

To ensure that queer voices are represented, she’s on the executive team of Women In Management and Galvanizer, a female founder accelerator. “As someone who’s queer, Chinese American, the child of immigrants, and experiences disability, I’m often used to having my identities exist on the margins. It’s been really vitalizing to see all of these affinity clubs and organizations on campus related to my intersectional identities,” she says.


Bruno Rigonatti Mendes: At the GSB, “There was an incredible amount of queer people who were all interested in engaging with each other”

Bruno Rigonatti Mendes moved to the U.S. when he was 18 from Sao Paulo, Brazil. After attending Columbia University, he returned to Brazil to develop his career. Curious about how technology is shaping world, Mendes applied to the GSB so that he could study in the heart of Silicon Valley. He moved to America once more — this time, with his husband and dog — to begin his MBA in 2022.

For Mendes, accepting his identity wasn’t easy. “Growing up, I had no references of what a queer person was until I was about 18,” he shares. “I was living in a pretty homophobic society that was hostile to the idea of loving people of the same gender.”

Upon moving to the U.S. the first time, he was finally able to cultivate self-acceptance. “I found enough room to come out and feel comfortable for who I was, and later either work at organizations that already had some kind of institutional support for queer people or work in organizations where I was able to lead that movement.”

Mendes felt welcome at the GSB the moment he stepped on campus. “There was an incredible amount of queer people who were all interested in engaging with each other,” he says.

For him, he takes the ‘pride’ word in Pride Month literally. “I think pride is the opposite of shame,” he explains. “This month is a yearly reminder that we shouldn’t be embarrassed to be who we are — and instead of being ashamed of it, we should be proud of it.”

This summer, Mendes will be working at McKinsey in a management consulting position. Post-graduation in 2024, he hopes to stay in the U.S. to build his professional career and either further pursue consulting or step into venture capital or impact investing.


Kevin Liang: “If you’re part of this community, maybe this is the year that you can fully express yourself”

Like Mendes, Kevin Liang didn’t grow up in an environment that fostered self-acceptance. “I was closeted throughout high school and college, and it wasn’t until I moved out of Boston — where I grew up — to New York that I started to explore my sexuality,” he shares.

Liang wanted to attend the GSB for three reasons: to try his hand at entrepreneurship, refine his leadership skills, and further his personal development. Here, he’s felt a sense of belonging since the beginning. “Having done so many speaking engagements here on campus, I’ve had classmates and prospective students reach out and tell me they resonated with my story,” he says. “That’s been a huge part of my personal GSB journey here in terms of finding and fostering community.”

To Liang, Pride Month isn’t only a reminder of his personal journey, but a celebration of stories like his. “The LGBQT+ community is so large and diverse,” he continues. “There are so many different avenues and channels that folks go through on this journey, but there are a lot of similarities, too. Pride Month is about celebrating shared experiences and also the diversity within the community.”

Ultimately, Liang reminds us that it’s never too late to accept yourself. “There are people coming out in their 50s and 60s,” he continues. “If you’re part of this community, maybe this is the year that you can fully express yourself.”

Liang is soon to graduate, and will be starting his role as chief of staff to Mark Pincus, the founder of Zynga, helping to lead his AI incubator this summer.


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