Last week’s momentous Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality helped more people than ever before feel like the United States is a great place to be part of the LGBTQ community. Maybe it got you wondering about which business schools are the best places to be part of that community?
As it turns out, there’s a ranking for that. And this year, New York University (NYU) Stern School of Business soared to the top, winning recognition for getting more of its student body involved to help foster an LGBTQ-inclusive campus culture than any other top business school.
The MBA Ally Challenge rankings, released in June, are the culmination of a year-long competition launched by nonprofit organization Friendfactor as part of an effort to encourage straight people to become visible and active allies in their workplace and campus communities.
Twenty-three schools participated this year, shattering prior records. Together, the business schools involved 9,000 students as allies—more than double last year’s participation of 4,300—and hosted more than 280 events and activities. Collectively, the schools improved LGBTQ inclusiveness on campuses by 30 percent based on measures taken at the beginning and again at the end of the school year, Friendfactor reports.
As part of the challenge, schools’ efforts to activate their student bodies are ranked on three criteria: the number of students involved, the number of activities they execute and their results on a survey that measures LGBTQ awareness and the inclusiveness of campus culture. To help make it clear that LGBTQ students are welcome and supported on their campuses, participating schools have done everything from draping their student centers in rainbow flags to organizing inter-section competitions to partnering with local LGBTQ community groups.
NYU Stern shot up from the number seven spot last year to outrank every other school. Students at Stern held 28 activities through the course of the year, including a comprehensive ally training series and a huge April Ally Week. The results were staggering, with 98 percent participation among the student body.
“Am I shocked that Stern won the Friendfactor Challenge? No, I’m not,” says Rachel Hurnyak (MBA ’15), who served as president of LGBTQ student group OutClass. “Our community leaned into hard topics this year. There were awkward moments and sometimes misinformed things were said. But, as a community, we let it get messy. Doing so allowed us to see what needed to be cleaned up.”
In addition to holding more events and establishing more allies than any other school, Stern also instituted a gender-neutral restroom on each floor of the school.
Last year’s winner, UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, slipped to number two this year, followed closely by the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. Each had more than 25 activities and 85 percent student participation—nothing to be ashamed of. USC’s Marshall School of Business won for “Most Improved School,” increasing inclusiveness by 60 percent over the course of the year.
Alison Goggin, executive director of MBA admissions at Stern, shared that on hearing the news she joked with colleagues in admissions at Haas that it is only fitting for Stern and Haas to hold the top spots, given the schools’ respective locations in Greenwich Village and Berkeley, birthplaces of the LGBTQ civil rights movement in the 1960s.
Stern is a program that has long made emotional quotient (EQ) an integral part of its MBA program. “This year, several of us tried something new by injecting diversity and inclusion into Stern’s EQ formula,” Hurnyak says. She and classmates asked the community to attend ally trainings and small group discussions, telling them the reasons would reveal themselves later.
“Later came sooner than we thought,” she says. Just a couple of weeks ago, when Caitlyn Jenner’s Vanity Fair cover was revealed, a male investment banker and former classmate texted her to ask for clarity on a women’s studies concept discussed in an ally training. Meanwhile on Facebook, another former classmate posted that Caitlyn’s gender identity is separate from her sexual orientation. “I was overwhelmed with pride,” says Hurnyak.
The effects of Stern’s efforts to increase inclusiveness—and Haas’s and Ross’s and every other school’s—will only ripple out. “When these MBAs enter the workforce, yes, they’ll be able to stand up for injustices, but they will also know how to broach the topics that everyone else is too afraid to touch,” Hurnyak points out.
Friendfactor, which calls itself “the LGBT rights organization for straight friends,” praised participating schools, noting that 22 of the 23 achieved Gold, Silver or Bronze status for reaching allyship participation levels and activity milestones. Eleven schools reached gold—marked by at least 50 percent student participation and more than nine activities. In addition to the three front-runners, these schools include the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, UVA’s Darden School, Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, Columbia Business School, Duke’s Fuqua School, Wake Forest University School of Business and UNC’s Kenan-Flagler School.