While previously working in theatre, MBA student Giustin MacLean didn’t hide his sexual orientation because the industry values diversity, but he wondered if he’d feel as comfortable being openly gay in the business environment.
On the other hand, fellow MBA student Aditya was closeted in his work environment in India, but was eager to share his identity with his peers. Diversity and inclusion were his top criteria when selecting a business school so that he would feel comfortable as a proud member of the LGBTQ+ community.
Learning that Ivey is a partner with Reaching Out MBA (ROMBA), a non-profit organization that develops out LGBTQ+ and ally MBA leaders, made it easy for them to choose Ivey.
Meet Ivey's ROMBA Fellows
MacLean and Aditya are Ivey’s 2023 ROMBA Fellows. The ROMBA Fellowship provides them with a $20,000-scholarship and access to exclusive leadership programming. Although both say they appreciate the financial support, being a ROMBA Fellow is meaningful for them in a variety of ways.
MacLean was pleased that Ivey encourages people to highlight their different experiences as early on as the application process.
“Having Ivey highlight diversity in such a visible way (and with generous financial backing) set my mind at ease,” he said. “Seeing a business school take steps to create an environment where diverse experiences are prized in a non-token way was really encouraging. This helped make the decision of where to go much easier.”
Aditya is excited about having access to a new network of LGBTQ+ MBA students that he wouldn’t otherwise be able to tap.
“ROMBA provides an open platform for people who have had similar struggles, triumphs, and hardships in their lives. It introduces me to a cohort that would be able to best understand me, my motivations, and my bigger purpose,” he said.
Being a ROMBA Fellow also comes with a sense of responsibility to do LGBTQ+ advocacy at Ivey, says MacLean. He has previously worked with LGBTQ+-focused organizations such as Rainbow Railroad, an international organization that helps LGBTQ+ people escape violence and persecution, and the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto, which performed the world’s first legalized same-sex marriage.
As President of the Ivey MBA Pride Club, MacLean’s goal is for the club to offer opportunities for everyone to participate, even those who are not part of the LGBTQ+ community but would like to become more conscious of the LGBTQ+ experience. The club currently has approximately 45 members, out of 135 MBA students, which may be a higher percentage than usual.
Breaking down barriers
“It’s important to me that it’s a safe place for people to be unfamiliar with the topic and not fear reprisal or judgment because those are the conditions under which the most amount of movement and growth can happen,” he said. “Becoming more conscious of the LGBTQ+ experience will make you a better, more human colleague to people. As much as there are going to be similarities between people, there are also going to be differences. I think our relationships are going to be forged by our ability to manage both of these things simultaneously.”
Although Aditya helped to create LGBTQ+-focused resource groups at his previous work places, he is eager to get more involved in advocacy work as the Vice President of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) for the Ivey MBA Association (MBAA) and a Pride Club member.
He has a three-pronged EDI agenda with his MBA cohort: increase awareness about different minority groups, embrace and celebrate those differences, and eradicate discrimination. Growing up in India, Aditya said he was uncomfortable disclosing his LGBTQ+ identity, but has since learned that it’s the first step to progress.
“My philosophy of LGBTQ+ advocacy is based on three pillars. First, shine in your field so bright and keep reinforcing your identity so strongly around others, that your good work and success become tools of activism. Second, build a family within the community so that LGBTQ+ peers find a safe place to interact and grow. And lastly, reinforce self-acceptance in all shapes and forms so that you find a stronger voice within,” he said.
People might not take these issues seriously until someone approachable says, ‘This is who I am and I’m open to you being supportive of me.’ That’s what LGBTQ+ leadership is all about.”