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?
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.
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.
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.
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).