How LGBTQ+ scholarships are ensuring more diverse voices in the world of business |

How LGBTQ+ scholarships are ensuring more diverse voices in the world of business

By Laura L

Updated March 8, 2022 Updated March 8, 2022

Progress towards diversity in leadership is happening, but there is more work to do. LGBTQ+ scholarships can help today’s business leaders to bring their whole selves to the table and raise progressive voices that historically haven’t been welcomed at the top.    

For professional figure skater Mauro Bruni, an MBA presented the opportunity to gain the knowledge and skills he needed to grow his performing arts business, and to build the ice theatre he dreamed of.   

An artist and performer from New York, United States, Mauro has always had his toe firmly dipped in the performing arts world. “I’ve been a performer all my life, but I have limited experience in traditional business,” Mauro said. 

“I wanted to understand how to run my company more efficiently and to better support the people I work with, so an MBA felt like the perfect way to balance my creative career with the business knowledge I needed to go further.”   

In 2019, Mauro started his MBA at Imperial College Business School in London and was awarded with a Reaching Out MBA (ROMBA) scholarship. ROMBA aims to educate, inspire and connect the LGBTQ+ MBA community to drive change in the workplace and create the next generation of leaders.    

To receive the scholarship, Mauro showcased a demonstrable track record of leadership in the LGBTQ+ community and a commitment to ROMBA’s mission to lead the way to equality in business education, the workplace and throughout society. To Mauro, inclusivity and equality are naturally embodied in everything that he does as a leader. 

“There are many people in the figure skating world who identify as LGBTQ+, so there is no way to do business in the industry without being inclusive towards LGBTQ+ people and issues,” he said. “As a member of the LGBTQ+ community myself, it has always felt easy for me to be inclusive because it comes naturally. I want to be in the performance arts industry, and I understand that I need to be a champion for both of my communities.” 

“It’s very important for me to live honestly as someone who is openly gay, married and thriving, and to show that I’ve been able to create something for myself and my community. If I think of myself as a young child, that’s what I wish I could have seen.”

A big part of being a leader in his industry is bringing his whole self to the table and encouraging others to do the same. “I think that’s what makes me show up every day and allows me to bring my true self into my work. It’s important for me to encourage the people I work with to feel everything they want to feel and to show up 100 percent in their performance too. By showing up as themselves, they bring so much more authenticity and have greater impact.”    

Bringing diverse voices to the table  

It’s something that Mauro believes all businesses should encourage. Historically and especially in the West, diverse voices have not had a place in the boardroom resulting in business decisions being made by those with similar views and ideas. But thankfully, newer more diverse voices are coming through to challenge the status quo and bring new thinking to the forefront.    

“The world is becoming very polarised and there’s an unwillingness to open up and welcome ‘otherness’ in,” said Mauro. “But ultimately, having more diverse and authentic voices represented in business can only create room for more imagination, more ideas and new methods that haven’t been tried before. Additionally, it showcases how a company is representative of its consumers and the communities it hopes to engage with.”     

“I think it’s beneficial for everyone to be more understanding and tolerant of people who come from different backgrounds and different experiences.” 

Challenges in otherness  

Mauro has faced challenges of his own. With a foot in both the performing arts and the business world following his MBA, he feels that his experience has become a dichotomy. While he works to bring his new business expertise to the figure skating industry with both his US company House of Mauro and a new organisation Ice Theatre of London, he has realised there is still a misunderstanding between those two worlds.   

“I think traditional businesspeople and performing artists still have stereotypes of each other and can struggle to see the experience and expertise in an industry that feels like the complete opposite end of the spectrum to the other. I’ve found that in figure skating, the expertise I can now bring as a businessperson isn’t always understood because the people in that industry identify as artists first.   

“The challenges I face in my niche area reflect the wider issues around that willingness to be open to otherness and to allow different voices to come through and do things a bit differently,” he added.  

Although Mauro has faced difficulty having people take his MBA seriously in the figure skating community and his experience in the performing arts taken seriously in the business world, he feels that it can only improve if more people from diverse backgrounds are given the opportunity to make a difference.   

The value of LGBTQ+ scholarships and reimagining education  

Business schools are working hard to adapt and deliver future leaders who can think differently and reimagine what is possible. Scholarships that support and empower people from minority groups, like those in the LGBTQ+ community, can help to make that change.  

“I think LGBTQ+ scholarships are important, especially in business, for the sole purpose of breaking down boundaries and stereotypes,” Mauro said. “I am so honoured to have been chosen as the first ROMBA Fellow at Imperial College Business School. I met hundreds of other LGBTQ+ MBA students and I felt wholly more welcome in MBA community.”  

“In 2022, there are still questions facing every LGBTQ+ identifying person in business like ’should I come out professionally?’ and ’will coming out negatively affect my career?’    

"What's sadder is that these questions are born from current facts that show 50 percent of LGBTQ+ people are not out in the workplace and the top reason LGBTQ+ workers do not report defamatory comments is because they don’t think anything would be done about it.”  

“We need to foster LGBTQ+ voices in business to change this narrative and promote respectful, open, and safe work environments for all.”  

“I can’t change everything on my own but I can continue to promote the figure skating industry as a viable performance opportunity and show the young people coming into figure skating that there is a community here beyond sporting competitions. I still believe in it and that’s why I did my MBA.”  

This article was originally published in February 2022 . It was last updated in March 2022

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