While his counterparts were attending large recruitment sessions, second-year MBA student Brian Weigandt found himself enjoying a private dinner with his potential employers — one of the many perks that comes with having access to the networking offered by Penn’s LGBT community.
Along with second-year MBA student Dave Bartlett, Weigandt serves as co-president of Wharton’s graduate LGBT group, Out4Biz.
Founded in the 1990s, Out4Biz serves as a conduit for LGBT students who are interested in business to establish contacts with LGBT professionals in the workforce.
The group also serves as a social organization to provide support for LGBT students at Penn, and is responsible for hosting “the two biggest parties of the year at Wharton,” according to Weigandt.
“We also do a lot of advocacy work on campus,” Bartlett added. “Here, people get really involved, and our ally members are some of the people really behind supporting projects such as keeping the alumni network together.”
One of Out4Biz’s main functions lies in its networking with alumni and major corporations. Last year, the support group organized on-campus recruiting events with companies such as Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley.
“We’re connected to all the major consulting firms and banks, and most of the firms that come to Wharton are very LGBT-friendly,” Weigandt said.
He added that these connections are especially important because they help prospective LGBT employees find a job where they will not experience discrimination based on their sexual orientation.
“The sort of discrimination that faces LGBT people is not necessarily that we’re afraid we’re going to be fired from our jobs, because realistically that doesn’t really happen that often,” Weigandt explained. “It’s more of the tangible things such as conversations happening in the workplace that are offensive to LGBT people.”
Along with Out4Biz, Penn is also home to the group’s undergraduate counterpart, the Wharton Alliance.
While the two groups generally conduct operations separately, they are connected through a mentorship program that offers undergraduates an opportunity to get together with MBA students and ask them questions about their experiences in the business world.
The group’s primary mission is to provide pre-professional development opportunities for Wharton LGBT students, said Wharton junior and Wharton Alliance President Makhosonkhe Nsibandze.
Nsibandze added that the Alliance, like Out4Biz, serves as a support group for LGBT students.
“We really spread the message that it’s okay to be gay within the professional setting,” he said.
But ultimately, Nsibandze emphasized the belief that the Wharton Alliance doesn’t just extend to LGBT students within the Wharton school.
“The one misconception is that the Wharton Alliance primarily serves individuals who want to go into finance and consulting,” he said. “But regardless of industry, everyone needs to develop [job-hunting] skills and think about exactly how to develop their identity or how to frame themselves as worthy candidates.”
College sophomore Hugh Hamilton, who serves as chair of the Lambda Alliance — Penn’s umbrella organization for LGBT students — agreed.
“The Alliance is a huge advantage for anyone who is interested in the business profession,” he said. “You’ll find that the Wharton Alliance doesn’t have a lot of peers in terms of what it does among other schools. We are very lucky to have them.”
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