LGBT community friendly MBA programs & business schools

While the courts, political parties, social organisations and media in India slug it out at different levels, where do the international business schools stand when it comes to supporting the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community?

Business schools have emphasised diversity – when it comes to cultures, nationality, gender, sexual orientation – in the MBA classes for a long time. How successful have they been when it comes to integrating LGBT students in their campuses?

This topic has been on our plate for a long time. Rather than providing an objective listing of LGBT friendly bschools and the on-campus and recruitment support they offer, we were hoping to have a guest post from any LGBT applicant who could infuse a little more soul and content into the post so that other applicants could relate to it.

Our MBA MAP questionnaire has a ‘minority category‘ field with ‘LGBT’ being one of the dropdown options. Though hundreds of applicants have used the service over many years, the ‘LGBT diversity candidate’ option was never selected…till this season.

However, when we asked this candidate if he’d be interested in writing this post, he said that his being gay had so far not had any impact on his academic or professional life. So we waited. And waited some more. Till the Supreme Court verdict on Section 377 was announced.

Rather than brushing the topic under the carpet, we thought it was high time, we focused on an aspect of business schools that seldom gets talked about, specially in India.

How do MBA programs look at LGBT students? Is life on campus easier or difficult? Are there recruitment resources specifically for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students?

LGBT MBA Communities & Resources at business schools

New York University (Stern MBA): Stern’s LGBT community club is called Outclass. it hosts a many student events ranging from networking (corporate dinners, Cocktail socials with other bschools) to Workshops to recruiting events with the best firms.

Wharton MBA: Out for Business (Out4Biz) acts as the focal point for LGBT initiatives at Wharton. Applicants are encouraged to start interacting with Out4Biz during the application process to gain a better understanding of what to expect.

Columbia University MBA: The student led LGBT organisation at Columbia is call Cluster Q. Apart from hosting social and networking events across the year, it also maintains relationships with the top companies (in consulting, finance, brand management) to encourage them to actively recruit from the Columbia Business School’s LGBT community.

Chicago Booth: The student group, OUTreach, works across full-time and part-time programs to foster a diverse environment. It connects with students from other bschools as well.

There are other Bschools such as Harvard Business School, Tuck (Dartmouth College), Darden (University of Virginia), Duke University, Kenan Flagler (University of North Carolina), Tepper (Carnegie Mellon University), and Anderson (University of California, Los Angeles) that have pledged their support towards making their campuses more inclusive.

They are all part of the MBA Ally Challenge (supported by consulting heavyweights McKinsey and Bain), a friendly inter-bschool competition, which aims to improve the LGBT friendliness across the campus.

Other LGBT MBA Resources

John Yoshimura, global chief operating officer at AT Kearney says, “Like all aspects of diversity, I strongly believe in and support LGBT workplace equality.

There are plenty of companies out there that share the philosophy. Out & Equal’s LGBT Career Link posts job opportunities with companies that encourage workplace diversity.

Reaching Out MBA (ROMBA, in short) is an NGO that promotes the academic and professional interests of the LGBT community. Matt Kidd, director of Reaching Out MBA, thinks that many business schools are looking for LGBT applicants.

LGBT MBA scholarships

The Point Foundation offers scholarships to LGBT students and applicants who have taken on leadership roles in the LGBT community. However, the constraint is that you need to have matriculated from a USA based accredited university.

Applying to bschools and companies as an LGBT applicant

Poets & Quants quoted Kidd, the organizer of the annual 3-day ROMBA conference, as saying that the careers teams at some bschools have been encouraging their straight students to attend the conference. Why so? Because the conference also includes a career fair. Kidd thinks it’s unfair for students to attend LGBT, Hispanic, Black and other diversity group related events when they aren’t part of the community.

Steve Salbu, the only openly gay dean at a top U.S. business school (Georgia Institute of Technology’s Scheller College of Business), has some advice for LGBT students when it comes to MBA recruitment. He recommends not coming out during MBA job interviews. Instead, he suggests that LGBT students should be ‘strategic’ in their approach. At the right time during the recruitment process, they could ask questions about anti-discrimination policies, LGBT support groups and benefits for domestic partners.

If you are wondering whether being an LGBT applicant improves your MBA admissions or job placement chances, the short piece of advice is this – Don’t try to blindly push the LGBT (or any other diversity candidate) card hoping to get some additional mileage.

Like any other applicant, your primary objective is to convince the Admissions Officer and the recruitment manager that you are the right candidate for the seat/job. Highlight aspects that are more relevant for each party. If being gay has influenced who you are as a person or professional, and if it comes across through the right experiences during the discussion, then it may work for you.

As Seth D Gilmore, from the Tuck MBA shared on TopMBA.com, it’s good to keep it mind that it’s still a predominantly ‘straight culture’ in the academic & professional world.

So philosophies and acceptance levels will differ across business schools & companies. Don’t make generic or sweeping assumptions about what to expect based on a few articles such as this.

The best approach is to reach out to current LGBT MBA students or alumni from the top bschools and ask them about their experiences.

Unfortunately, all the information in this post has been gathered through secondary research i.e. from various online sources. Not the most credible option, we understand. But we hope this is would make folks more aware of the LGBT MBA resources available across international bschools and trigger further research.

If nothing else, at least send across the message to LGBT MBA applicants – In an international bschool environment, you are not alone.

If you know of any LGBT students from India (or any other country for that matter) who’ve been to any of these business schools, please request them to share their experiences in the comments below (anonymously is fine).


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Sameer Kamat //
Sameer Kamat
Founder of MBA Crystal Ball. Author of Beyond The MBA Hype & Business Doctors. Here's more about me. Connect with me on Google+ | Twitter | Facebook | Linkedin

8 Comments

  1. Jayanth says:

    Dear Sameer,

    Kudos for writing this article. As a LGBT applicant this season, I was always wondering how to put across to the adcoms, this side of my candidature. And I’m certain there are dozens, if not hundreds of LGBT applicants from India.

    However, would you recommend coming out “just for the sake of it”? Doesn’t coming out make more sense if you have some leadership experience with LGBT groups and associations – There are many in India in almost every city. Of course, now it is illegal to be a self declared homosexual in India – But I’m sure the adcoms would be aware of the number of help groups around!

  2. Sameer Kamat says:

    Jayanth, thanks for setting the ball rolling. We were wondering if anybody would even comment on this post.

    To answer your question – No, when it comes to bschool applications, it doesn’t make sense to do anything ‘just for the sake of it’.

    Longer answer: Most applicants try to think of MBA admissions as a check-list based formula i.e. GMAT / TOEFL – check, essays/recos/resume – check, extra curriculars / social service / diversity candidate – ???

    That doesn’t work! In fact, it could come across as a shallow gimmick.

    What you’ve mentioned is spot on. If you have been part of social or leadership initiatives related to the community, highlight those aspects.

    Legality is a completely different topic though that neither you nor I are competent to talk about. So we’ll leave that to the experts. But yes, Adcoms are aware of the fact that it’s not easy being gay, or for that matter, being from a specific applicant sub-group (including physically challenged, female, religion)…when it comes to social, financial, corporate freedom.

    For example, female candidates make up only 30% of the class in even the best MBA programs. But that does’t mean, mentioning ‘Female candidate’ in the application automatically gives anyone an instant advantage.

    Keep in mind the bigger picture of why a top international recruiter will hire you after your MBA. Is it because you are gay, or female or from an under-represented caste? Or is it because you bring with you solid skills that’ll help the business irrespective of your sexual orientation, nationality, religion etc?

    Highlight the same skills in your MBA application.

    Hope you can put in some good applications this year, get into a top school and come back and share some first hand experiences about whether the LGBT support groups are all that they are made out to be or just bschools taking a politically correct, inclusivity / diversity stand.

    Good luck, bro!

  3. Jayanth says:

    Thanks Sameer! I just got an accept today from a top 10 in the south :)

    Will keep you posted about their LGBT association.

  4. Sameer Kamat says:

    Talk about timing! Congrats, Jayanth, for cracking into the Top 10.

    While we wait for your detailed report about the resources on campus (it may take time), would you care to share if (and how) you used the LGBT angle in your application. Did it come up during the interview? Do you think it may have had an influence in the way your application was perceived?

  5. Jayanth says:

    Well, to be honest, I did not use that angle in my essays as it was really not one of the stronger points I had. Most schools give an option for self declaration which I used. My interviews have been blind so far.

  6. Sonam Mehta says:

    Its very very good news for LGBT community. This information must be shared more and more so as to spread the word

  7. help says:

    As u mentioned, it’s not a good option to come out in the application if one has had not served for the community in the past. But its not at all easy to come out and serve and highlight those aspects of ours. We need stronger support and that comes with the top b schools ,which actually makes one come out and later in life serve to the community .

  8. Anonymous says:

    Thanks a lot for this post Sameer! Really really appreciate it…

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