LGBTQ Diversity at Business School

June is Pride Month around the globe. Today, we’re taking a look at how top business schools are striving provide a welcoming environment for applicants and students of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) community.


But first, how can applicants determine which schools rank as gay-friendly? Enter Campus Pride. This leading national nonprofit organization works to create a safer environment for LGBTQ students.  It has created a Campus Climate Index that takes an in-depth look at LGBTQ-friendly policies, programs, and practices.

This year, Campus Pride partnered with BestColleges to compile a 2019 list of best colleges for LGBTQ students. These schools excelled in eight LGBTQ-focused areas: policy inclusion, support and institutional commitment, academic life, student life, housing, campus safety, counseling and health, and recruitment and retention efforts.

Top ratings went to several universities also lauded for their elite MBA programs. The list includes:

  • Babson College
  • Columbia
  • Cornell
  • Indiana University at Bloomington
  • Dartmouth College
  • University of Virginia
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • University of California at Los Angeles

Support on campus for LGBTQ students

Business schools have affinity clubs and organizations specifically for the LGBTQ community. Groups like Ross Out for Business, Pride@Kellogg, and Wharton Out 4Biz strive to foster a supportive atmosphere and offer a social network for students, alumni, staff, and faculty. Here, students can explore the roles and contributions of gays and lesbians in the business community.


“Recruiters are increasingly placing an emphasis on diversity in the workplace,” Roxanne Hori, associate dean at NYU Stern, told the Financial Times in an article on tapping into the LGBTQ talent pool.

Management consultants like McKinsey led the way, Hori said. Subsequently, banks and tech companies have worked to catch up, she noted. They now actively promote affinity groups in order to create a welcoming environment, she said.

LGBTQ applicants and students should also check out the nonprofit organization Reaching Out MBA. It promotes the education, visibility, and networking capabilities of LGBTQ graduate business school students primarily through an annual conference. This fall, it will take place in Atlanta October 10-12, 2019.

Is this a topic for your MBA apps?

We know that sexuality is not a topic often addressed within the b-school application. Yet we urged one gay client to consider weaving that personal information into his essays as a way to distinguish himself from his peers. First, he resisted what he thought seemed like a “diversity gimmick.”

But we helped him see that the process of coming out was integral to his identity. It was a major theme in his life, and had shaped him in many ways. The client ended up adapting one essay per school to his sexuality. He discussed his journey of self-discovery, and the process of self-acceptance.

Then, he wrote about telling family and friends, their reactions, and how that had impacted him. The mechanics of his story may have been similar to others. But the way it shaped his outlook, and his involvement in mentoring activities, was personal.

Ultimately, this applicant was admitted to Columbia University and Harvard University. We’ll never know for sure whether including this element in his applications led to those admits. However, we all agreed that the applications he submitted had revealed a more authentic picture of himself.

What does the adcomm think?


Here’s what the admissions team at Duke Fuqua has to say on the subject:

“It is completely your decision whether or not to be out in your application.  However, the Admissions team strives to get to know you on a personal level, and many LGBT applicants feel that they can better present themselves and their ‘stories’ in their applications if they are open about the sexuality and gender identity.  

The Admissions team is very LGBT-friendly and is excited to work to increase the relative proportion of LGBT students in the larger Fuqua student body, given our historical under-representation in MBA programs.

As a quick note, if you are ‘out’ in your application, you do not automatically have to be out to your classmates and professors if you so choose (although we do hope that most LGBT students will choose to be out on campus).”


The right fit is a crucial part of a positive MBA experience. That means finding a school where you will thrive personally and professionally. When researching potential programs, remember to give significant weight to how welcoming the campus environment feels.

As Reaching Out MBA notes, “you’re not part of the LGBTQ MBA community for two years—you’re part of it for life.”

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