On Being Queer
Initially, I thought that applying for an MBA would be a pretty cut and dry process, but the more research I did, the more I realized that the significant investment in time and money should ensure I ended up in a supportive and safe environment.
This is not to say that any MBA programs felt particularly unsafe, but rather that I was looking for a program that had an LGBTQ community baked into the campus. Going back to school is a big enough deal on its own, the idea of starting a club or organization tied to my identity seems like a lot to add on to the experience.
Throughout my research, I was thoroughly impressed! Every school I looked at had an LGBTQ club on campus- at some programs (I’m looking at you Wharton) the clubs are actually the most popular ones on campus due to their social activities! Dope!
As I explored more, I realized that the LGBTQ scene at business school is actually dominated by gay white men. This is completely unsurprising given that the business world is mostly white men, BUT it kind of tilts the narrative in terms of access and opportunity for all queer-identifying folks.
Where are all the queer women?
After asking a few queer students, I frequently heard that the issue is 2 fold:
Many (though of course not all) queer women pursue career paths in advocacy and activism through direct impact work at non-profits or other organizations
There is a lack of resources and minimal outreach done to increase the number of LGBTQ women in MBA programs
The mission of Reaching Out MBA (ROMBA) is to increase the representation of LGBTQ identifying people in MBA programs and thus the world of business. ROMBA provides fellowships of $10k a year to LGBTQ students enrolled in MBA programs (so $20k total) and put on an extremely well regarded annual conference which provides ample opportunities for queer MBA students to network and recruit with LGBTQ friendly companies (see you in Minneapolis October 4-6!). ROMBA makes a concerted effort to provide access exclusively to those who identify as LGBTQ which is quite unlike other diversity programs I researched.
They also produce research reports which reveal dismal statistics such as 2.94% - the percent of current MBA students who openly identify as LGBTQ.
Race and sex are hard to hide when you walk onto campus, but sexual identity does not need to be revealed. Everyone should decide their comfort level when it comes to being out when applying and throughout their two years on campus. Of course, I completely respect everyone’s individual decision on this personal issue.
I must say though that it was particularly difficult to find queer women of color during my outreach to MBA programs. In fact, I spoke to exactly one woman of color throughout the entire process.
Should queer women of color be more visible?
I fully support the notion of joining the admissions committee to lead tours and field questions from prospective students to give queerness a face and identity in MBA programs and wonder what else, if anything can be done to enhance visibility.
From the start of the application process, I decided to proudly share my queer identity in part because it is who I am, but also because I think it’s important to increase queer access to worlds that are not ‘traditionally’ queer.
As the conversations around diversity and inclusion evolve, I am ready for action and action requires being in the places where things happen. An MBA is a pipeline to the big wide world of business and I look forward to being a part of the action!