LGBT Students Debate Coming Out for Advantage in On-Campus Recruitment

LGBT Students Debate Coming Out for Advantage in On-Campus Recruitment

LGBT Students Debate Coming Out for Advantage in On-Campus Recruitment

With companies’ increased focus on diversity, being LGBT can be an asset.


This piece was originally published in the Daily Pennsylvanian and is re-posted here with permission.

With on-campus recruiting in full swing, an increased number of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students are using LGBT networks within companies to help them navigate the job market.

Last week, consulting firm Oliver Wyman and The Boston Consulting Group held LGBT receptions near campus where students were introduced to the company’s LGBT members. These events are a forum for students and recruiters to share their perspectives on being openly LGBT on their resumes and interviews.

According to 2003 Wharton MBA alumnus and BCG Principal Scott Davis, many students arrive with questions about how to be “out” in the workplace and to clients.

Davis, who is the global co-leader of BCG’s LGBT network said that attendance at on-campus LGBT recruiting events has “grown significantly.” Last week, around 40 people attended BCG’s reception at La Terrasse—eight times the number of people who attended a similar function when Davis was an MBA student in 2003.

“In the last three to four years, I’ve seen a lot of people coming out at a much younger age,” he said. “People feel much more comfortable being out now. They see it as a non-issue.”

According to Bob Schoenberg, director of the LGBT Center, students who have performed well at Penn have the freedom to be selective. “More and more Penn students say, ‘Why would I want to work some place that can’t accept me for who I am?’” he said.

Wharton and Engineering junior and Wharton Alliance President Justin Warner said, “LGBT students that are closeted underestimate how challenging it is to be in the closet. When you’re at work, in a field where you dedicate a lot of time — it becomes a big stress factor.”

According to Warner, the mission of the Wharton Alliance —the Ivy League’s only pre-professional LGBT organization—is to remove the misconception that LGBT students are at a disadvantage during the job search.

“The mission of the Wharton Alliance is to show people that [being LGBT] is really not a liability—if anything, it’s an asset,” he said. “Firms that have strong LGBT networks are known for providing a safe environment for LGBT people. They attract the best candidates, LGBT or otherwise.”

Schoenberg added that the value that companies place on diversity has increased over the last ten years. Many students and companies pay close attention to the Human Rights Commission’s Corporate Equality Index, which ranks U.S. employers based on their policies and respect for LGBT employees.

“It’s almost a competition to see who can be the most friendly to minority groups,” said Wharton junior Ned Shell, the vice president of Wharton Alliance.

However, according to Shell, many LGBT students make two versions of their resumes—one that omits any direct mention of LGBT activities—to present to more conservative employers.

College junior Mari Kishi, who is an exchange student from Japan, is familiar with this practice. Kishi attended both the Oliver Wyman and BCG receptions last week.

“I was really shocked at first because in Japan even if you are out on campus, you are not usually ‘out’ in the recruiting process,” she said. “I was really surprised that there are actually sexual minority groups in companies.”

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