LGBT Rights in Top US Business Schools |

LGBT Rights in Top US Business Schools

By Pavel Kantorek

Updated July 5, 2019 Updated July 5, 2019

Despite high levels of diversity, in some respects, sadly, business schools are not seen as places of inclusivity or freedom of expression and lifestyle choices; this is exactly what the US organization Friendfactor wants to fight. In the last two years Friendfactor has helped 12 of the top 20 business schools in the US become hubs of inclusivity and LGBT equality through the business school favourite method of friendly, interschool competition. And, instead of reaching out to LGBT students themselves, Friendfactor focuses on the students who make up the majority and aims to improve the awareness of LGBT rights and issues for those who would otherwise not be involved – the people who they call ‘allies’.

Friendfactor working for LGBT rights on campus and at work

Friendfactor is an award-winning, non-profit, LGBT rights organization that encourages and supports heterosexual people to become LGBT allies at school or at work. Their current initiative is the MBA Ally Challenge which has been running since 2012. The competition involves 12 of the top business schools in the US whose students will rally to gain the name of the most LGBT friendly business school by helping to support and promote equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students through events and campaigns.

Friendfactor defines an ally as someone who “takes action to advance the equality and inclusion of others, regardless of personal identity” and the challenge is to see which business schools can build the strongest and biggest ally initiatives over the course of the school year.

Business Schools joining to advance LGBT equality

Since its inaugural year in 2012, the number of business schools involved has doubled and as of this month has 2,800 student participants in over 45 ally-related activities. Last year this led to a 19% increase in LGBT awareness and 55% increase of LGBT friendliness at competing business schools, with that percentage expected to have grown considerably when this year’s results are announced in May 2014.

The MBA Ally Challenge is supported by global companies McKinsey & Company and Bain & Company helping make the scheme such a wide scale one. Friendfactor hasn’t stopped with business schools however and is launching its new initiative in January 2014 which will see the same challenge be taken on in the workplace.

This is a particularly big step for LGBT equality because, according to the Center for Talent Innovation, 41% of LGBT people remain closeted in the workplace. The inclusivity of LGBT people along with an awareness of LGBT equality at work is more important than ever according to Eric Huang, the student leader at Ross Business School, and must be addressed in business school these students are working to become future business leaders. So far the program has provided this knowledge and understanding of equality to 40% of Ross’s student body.

Columbia Business School holds the end-of-year top spot as the most LGBT friendly campus, having over taken Ross School of Business which was leading at the beginning of the month.

Schools gain points for initiatives and efforts brought about by the student body towards being more LGBT friendly and the points are added up every month. The points system is grounded in three key aspects: membership – the number of students participating in more than one activity, activities – the number of ally-specific events and campaigns the school puts on, and outcomes – the results based on a survey that measures LGBT awareness and LGBT friendliness within the culture of the campus.


The complete list of schools involved in the Friendfactor program are:

(Links to each school’s LGBT information page)

Columbia Business School (Silver Status)

MIT Sloan School of Management (Silver Status)

Kellogg School of Management (Gold Status)

Harvard Business School (Bronze Status)

Ross School of Business (Bronze Status)

Booth School of Business

Kenan-Flagler Business School

The Fuqua School of Business

Tepper School of Business (Bronze Status)

Tuck School of Business

Anderson School of Management

Darden School of Business

Business schools can achieve Bronze Status by having a membership of 50 students, 3 or more activities and a 50% average in the outcome survey, Silver Status schools require a membership of 100, 6 or more activities and a 75% average score. Kellogg School of Management is the only school to have received Gold Status which requires a membership of 200 students, 9 or more activities and must be in the top 25% of programs for the survey.

Through friendly competition, students get the chance to further the LGBT friendly status of the school and allow for prospective students to see just how inclusive each school is. The activities created also have scope to be recurring – monthly or annually – in order to continue the efforts of making the campus one of complete LGBT equality.

Reaching Out MBA making business schools LGBT Friendly

Friendfactor isn’t the only organization working to help further LGBT awareness, Reaching Out MBA is another prominent name in regards to LGBT rights issues within business schools. Reaching Out MBA continue to advance the LGBT cause with conferences and events for business schools.

Separate organizations like Friendfactor and Reaching Out MBA are not the only way for business schools to be inclusive however, and many schools around the world offer their own LGBT rights organizations which have been set up my students and/or faculty members. More often than not these are student-run societies funded by the university and are free to sign up to and join in with events. To find out more go to your prospective business school’s website and search for LGBT groups under the student life section.

This article was originally published in May 2016 . It was last updated in July 2019

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Written by

Mansoor is a contributor to and former editor of He is a higher and business education specialist, who has been published in media outlets around the world. He studied English literature at BA and MA level and has a background in consumer journalism.