Promoting Equality And Inclusivity: LGBTQ+ Initiatives At Business Schools

LGBTQ at business schools

Business schools are supporting the LGBTQ+ community more than ever before. According to the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC)’s 2022 application trends survey, 47 percent of full-time MBA programs in the U.S. conducted special recruitment outreach to the LGBTQ+ community. This is up from 31 percent in the same survey in 2019.

Last year, GMAC announced the GMAT™ Talent and Opportunity Scholarship. This scholarship is aimed at financially supporting individuals from underrepresented communities, including those from the LGBTQ+ community, who want to attend business school. This scholarship is just one of the many new initiatives GMAC has introduced to support LGBTQ+ students. 

GMAC CEO, Joy Jones says: “It’s absolutely essential that these initiatives exist and that business schools and companies become more representative of society at large to promote the benefits of diversity and the power of inclusive environments.”

While there is still work to be done to target discrimination and prejudice faced by the LGBTQ+ community, many business schools around the world are joining efforts to recruit and support LGBTQ+ candidates and students. 

As part of Pride month, here are 9 LGBTQ+ initiatives from business schools and their partners around the world.

Reaching out MBA

Reaching Out MBA (ROMBA) was started more than 20 years ago by students at Harvard Business School and Yale School of Management. What started as a gathering of 100 students from six schools has grown into a dynamic set of programs that supports thousands of LGBTQ+ MBAs and alumni each year. The goal of Reaching Out MBA is to support, engage, inspire and connect an increasingly diverse LGBTQ+ MBA community.  

Today it supports more than 300 ROMBA Fellows from 70 business schools and corporate partners and hosts annual conferences, increasing the influence of the LGBTQ+ community in business.

Thomas Meehan was first introduced to Reaching Out MBA while researching MBA programs and evaluating which would be the best fit. He attended ROMBA’s virtual conference in 2021, and it was the perfect opportunity to connect with MBA programs, participate in dynamic and inclusive programming all while experiencing the largest gathering of LGBTQ+ students and professionals.

“During the conference, I also learned about the ROMBA fellowship and the benefits from receiving a fellow designation. From financial assistance to exclusive leadership programming, ROMBA’s fellowship program and partnership with top business schools have led the charge to increase LGBTQ+ representation and opportunities while creating future leaders in the business community.

After his first ROMBA conference, Thomas felt more empowered to share his story, apply to programs, and strive to be selected as a ROMBA Fellow. Fast forward to fall 2022, he had accepted an offer from the McCombs MBA program. “To my surprise I was named a ROMBA Fellow for the class of 2024. I will be forever grateful for the fellowship experience because through it, I have created lifelong friends, broadened my LGBTQ+ network, and made an impact both personally and professionally.”

INSEAD Business School

At INSEAD, diversity is viewed as a source of learning and enrichment. The school is dedicated in creating a learning environment that is welcoming to all students. 

That’s why INSEAD launched the OUTSEAD club. OUTSEAD works with LGBTQ+ students, as well as their partners and allies, to support them and provide a safe space at INSEAD. It promotes diversity in recruitment and admissions processes and advocates for policies that create a more inclusive environment for LGBTQ+ students. 

“OUTSEAD provides a supportive community for these individuals to help them find acceptance and support,” says Jatin Garg, OUTSEAD President.

The club promotes awareness, education, and acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community by organizing events, workshops, guest speakers, and social gatherings. While the networking opportunities are created for LGBTQ+ students to connect with LGBTQ+ networks in companies and industries, it also offers mentorship from alumni who can provide guidance and support as students navigate their careers. 

“These resources and connections can be particularly valuable for LGBTQ+ students who may face additional challenges in their professional lives,” explains Garg.

ESMT Berlin

Germany’s ESMT Berlin believe that learning from each other is an important part of the learning process, so it’s hugely important for business schools to create diverse communities. 

Rebecca Loades, Director of MBA programmes at ESMT says: “Business schools influence business, and it’s therefore critical we encourage and demonstrate the power and impact that diversity and inclusion have.”

Creating a diverse community goes beyond the immediate learning experience, and ESMT Berlin has introduced a number of initiatives to support LGBTQIA+ students. 

  • The school’s Rainbow Scholarship gives special consideration to self-identified LGBTQ+ applicants who apply to ESMT’s full-time, part-time and executive MBA programmes. 
  • The Inclusive Leadership Roundtable was founded six years ago to support ESMT in prioritising the values and practices of diversity, equity, and inclusion within the school, and to champion the same in academia and the business community.
  • The student club QUEERY raises awareness of the LGBTQ+ community and, in partnership with ESMT’s Inclusive Leadership Roundtable (ILRT), helps create a more gender-friendly environment.

Loades says: “We perform our best when we can be ourselves, and everyone should be able to bring their true selves to work. Unfortunately, there are still too few role models of openly-out LGBTQ+ leaders and managers, despite estimates that more than 5% of the global population is LGBTQ+.  

“Business schools can be role models for how business should be, and everyone deserves to be treated equally and not subjected to discrimination.”

Aalto University School of Business 

The Aalto University School of Business in Finland aims to nurture an equal, diverse, and inclusive community by continually reviewing areas for improvement and identifying the actions needed to meet these goals. 

To do this, the school’s Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) committee prepares an annual action plan. 

In the past couple of years, the EDI committee has focused on: 

  • Building EDI awareness and capabilities among the school’s faculty
  • Promoting equitable processes and practices for both faculty and students 
  • Fostering an inclusive learning environment by incorporating EDI themes in the school’s study programs 
  • Teaching faculty on inclusive teaching practices

The school believes that an effective way to improve inclusivity is to understand issues from the students’ perspective. The Aalto University Business Students Association (KY) supports and stands alongside the LGBTQ+ community, ensuring the school’s everyday actions, attitudes, and overall atmosphere are that of an inclusive and supportive environment for students.

Meeri Korpi, Executive Board Member at KY, said: “All students should feel like they belong on campus and in the classroom, and that they are able to fulfill their professional, educational, and social aspirations fully without any barriers or hindrances. At KY’s events, our members should feel comfortable being who they are.” 

Mendoza College of Business at the University of Notre Dame

Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business advocates for personal growth as much as business growth. The school’s LGBTQ+ and Allies Club seeks to foster diversity through inclusion and create a feeling of belonging across the community. 

One of the club’s recent initiatives is based around the idea of creating a platform for student storytelling. Students are invited to give a talk or reflection around one of the three prompts:

  • ‘Where I’m from,’ 
  • ‘Where I’m going’
  • ‘We are Notre Dame (ND)’

This presents an opportunity for students from different backgrounds with different experiences and affinities to share their stories. These segments, particularly the ‘We are ND’ prompt, often includes exercises that will help break down barriers, bring light to bias, or connect with someone new. 

For example, last year, Nick Yanek, the President of the LGBTQ+ and Allies Club, spoke about the complexities of the identifties that each of us has, and about how the community of support around him at the business school made it possible to continue to grow and be his true self.

For Chelsea Reyes, current President of the LGBTQ and Allies Club, such initiatives are an indicator of the business school’s understanding of the present and future. “It requires acceptance and forward thinking. The business leaders of tomorrow are not the leaders we have seen in the past, so a business school should be incentivized to think ‘Who are we empowering in business, what will business look like, what will those leaders look like, what will those talent profiles look like?’”

Audencia Business School 

Audencia Business School, in France, is committed to creating an inclusive campus experience for everyone regardless of their gender or sexual orientation. They believe raising awareness and creating a conversation are the best ways to promote inclusivity.

In 2015, Audencia Business School signed the LGBT Charter of the association Autre Cercle, which helps businesses drive cultural change and create inclusive work environments. Since then, an internal group of students and employees has been set up at Audencia to prioritise actions to raise awareness of LGBTQ+ inclusion.

The school has organised a number of awareness-raising events to speak about the school’s vision and encourage dialogue on important issues in the LGBTQ+ community. Inclusivity and awareness are also integrated into Audencia’s courses. For example, Christine Naschberger, Professor at the Organisational and Ethical Studies department, includes LGBTQ+ inputs in her research, which she shares in her teaching. 

Barbara Haddou, head of corporate social responsibility and gender-based violence advisor at Audencia, works on the biases and categorisations that lead to discrimination in order to create dialogue and raise collective awareness. She runs ‘Diversity Fresques’ for students and employees, which boost understanding and raises questions about the issues of discriminations and inclusion. 

“It’s important to remember that legislation is not the same from one country to another when it comes to LGBTQ+ acceptance. It’s our responsibility to ensure that our students are welcomed with respect and kindness, whatever their sexual orientation,” says Professor Haddou.

IMPM

The International Masters Program for Managers (IMPM) is an Executive Diploma in Global Management from five top international universities, including Canada’s McGill University’s Desautels Faculty of Management.

IMPM has recently launched a scholarship for leaders of the LGBTQ community. The institution prides itself in having a very diverse cohort of senior executives from many countries and backgrounds, which is why this scholarship is open to applicants anywhere in the world.

The scholarship provides up to $10,000 USD towards IMPM tuition for LGBTQ leaders, whether they are leaders in their community, or leaders in their organizations.

“Business has a lot of power in most countries, and therefore has an important role to play in influencing culture and governments to fully accept LGBTQ+ individuals,” said Ron Duerkson, the Global Executive Director of IMPM.

Polimi Graduate School of Management 

Polimi Graduate School of Management, in Italy, has celebrated this year’s pride month with passion and determination, embracing the values of inclusion and equality and supporting the expression of authenticity. 

During its Pride Week, Polimi hosted a wide range of events. At one of these events, the careers team met with companies to discuss and share good practices regarding inclusion and equal opportunities, with a focus on issues facing the LGBTQ+ community in the workplace. The school also hosted a round table dedicated to the application of alias ​​protocols in universities.

“As an educational institution, it is our duty to support equality and inclusion in all their forms,” says Federico Frattini, Dean of POLIMI Graduate School of Management, “Pride Month gives us the opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to fostering a culture that embraces diversity as a driving force for innovation and growth”.

Frankfurt School of Finance and Management 

“Learning and the development of ideas work best in heterogeneous environments,” states Frankfurt School of Finance and Management in Germany, which supports its LGBTQ+ students in several important ways.

The school has a student-led initiative called FS Unity, which creates a safe space for LGBTQ+ students to get in touch with other community members or allies and exchange experiences. FS Unity co-operates with companies, the student counselling programme and with the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force of Frankfurt School.

Frankfurt School students and heads of FS Unity, Sophie Brites Alves and Stilianos Tononidis, say this initiative is to create more awareness and show that the LGBTQ+ network is an inherent part of the community, whether in a private, business or university environment. 

“We believe that there should be more events and co-operations centred around LGBTQ+ topics. In our opinion that would not just create awareness, but make such events common and not be treated as special events that are appearing mostly during pride month,” they said.

More from Poets&Quants: Making The Minority A Priority – The Importance Of LGBTQ+ Clubs At Business Schools

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