Should I Be Out as LGBTQ+ in My MBA Applications?
Business schools are actively recruiting LGBTQ+ students. In fact, about 1 in 3 US full-time MBA programs conducted special outreach to the LGBTQ+ community in the last MBA admissions cycle, according to the Application Trends Survey from the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC).
However, if you’re a prospective MBA student from the LGBTQ+ community, you may still feel unsure about whether to identify as LGBTQ+ in your application.
Does identifying as LGBTQ+ matter? Are there advantages to identifying as LGBTQ+? How can you find an LGBTQ+ friendly business school?
Advantages of sharing your LGBTQ+ identity
The essential piece of advice for budding LGBTQ+ business school students is to stay true to yourself in your MBA application. Schools want to understand who their MBA students really are—your application is a great place to show what you can bring to the classroom.
Still, disclosing your identity remains a personal choice requiring careful consideration. “The individual has to decide if they have enough resources in their life to withstand the risks that might be associated with disclosing their identity status,” notes Ronnie Wimberley (they/their), a Harvard Business School alum who identified as LGBTQ+ in their application.
For many students, the benefits of disclosing their identity far outweigh the risks. The opportunity to meet likeminded prospective MBAs through LGBTQ+ events, and the added benefit of learning to leverage your unique strengths in your application, will pay off in your future career.
“[By doing so] you have the potential to unlock additional power for yourself and to become an effective role model for other people,” Ronnie reflects.
Ultimately, embracing your LGBTQ+ identity could positively impact future LGBTQ+ leaders, too.
“The more it becomes completely normal to have LGBTQ+ leaders at the tops of companies and in business schools, the less that LGBTQ+ people coming up the ranks will be forced to worry about whether they will be treated as equals,” says Dr Aneeta Rattan, associate professor of organizational behavior at London Business School (LBS).
Aneeta is also a board member of the LBS Out in Business club (OiB), which provides networking and career opportunities for LBS LGBTQ+ students and allies.
How to reference being LGBTQ+ in your MBA applications
It can be tricky to figure out how to share your LGBTQ+ identity in your MBA application.
Chandler Arnold, senior consultant at MBA admission consulting firm Stacy Blackman Consulting, recommends you share what you’re comfortable with and what is authentic to you. “But I often encourage applicants to share their LGBTQ+ identity as it can be a compelling facet of a personal statement,” he advises.
Candidates should use their experience as a member of the LGBTQ+ community to explore a topic that is deeply meaningful to them, Chandler notes.
For Ronnie, hiding their LGBTQ+ identity in their Harvard MBA application was never an option. Instead, Ronnie weaved their identity into their application in a way that showcased their unique talents, business acumen, and resilience.
“In my resume, I outlined my previous leadership roles related to supporting the LGBTQ+ community. In terms of MBA essays, I treated my experience of navigating societal barriers through my marginalized identity status as a unique skill set, strength, and example of my leadership capabilities,” explains Ronnie.
Disclosing your LGBTQ+ identity in your MBA application doesn’t have to follow a formulaic approach, either. You can include whatever information best emphasizes your talents in your essays and short answers.
“You might discuss your experiences of coming out, and the lessons learned along the way,” suggests Aidan Currie, executive director of Reaching Out MBA (ROMBA), a nonprofit organization that supports LGBTQ+ business school students.
Support for LGBTQ+ MBAs
There are various LGBTQ+ support groups and initiatives, which can help you select an LGBTQ+ ally school and offer guidance on your MBA application. ROMBA offers fellowships for LGBTQ+ MBA students and hosts an annual LGBTQ+ conference for students and alumni.
It’s also a good idea to research business schools’ diversity and inclusion policies, and those which have shown dedication to championing LGBTQ+ rights. “Students often use our list of 62 fellowship schools to help them choose an LGBTQ+ friendly business school,” Aidan notes.
The OiB club at London Business School encourages prospective LGBTQ+ business school students to connect with LBS LGBTQ+ OiB club members
“Speak with a current student or alum who shares your identities and who has experienced the process and can provide a sounding board for thinking through the choices that you have,” Aneeta advises.
Such initiatives can help you make an informed decision about your choice of business school and serve as a timely reminder that you do not have to face your journey as an LGBTQ+ MBA student alone.
Expert advice for crafting your MBA story
The mba.com free guide, How to Get Started: Your First Steps to a Full-Time MBA, provides you with step-by-step, expert guidance on how to position your personal brand in your applications to ensure you tell an authentic and compelling narrative that differentiates you from other qualified applicants and sticks in the minds of the admissions committees.
Get insider advice on how to:
- Reflect on your personal journey and express who you are
- Clearly articulate your goals in a way that will check the boxes admissions staff are trained to look for
- Have a rock-solid answer to the key questions of “why an MBA?” and “why now?”
- Tie your MBA story together in a way that elevates your personal brand