ROMBA 2018: A Student Leader’s Perspective
By Mia Di Stefano, MBA’19
The strongest business leaders are those who are able to be their authentic selves. On Oct 4, I joined 1,600 fellow LGBTQ MBAs and business graduates, professional business leaders, alumni and recruiters in Minneapolis for the Annual Reaching OUT MBA (ROMBA) conference. As Co-President of the Babson OUT Network, I was glad to be able to attend and represent Babson.
For so many of us in the LGBTQ community, which includes lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer identities, ROMBA is a homecoming of sorts. I reconnected with friends that I had met at last year’s conference, and made new ones. As the Session Director for the Out Women in Business Reception, I helped organize an event for nearly 200 women MBAs and business leaders.
This year’s theme, “Driving Momentum”, alludes to how much the world has changed in the past 20 years since ROMBA first started. Companies now recognize the importance of empowering LGBTQ voices within their organizations. Over 90 top companies, from BCG to L’Oréal, attended ROMBA to connect with LGBTQ MBA candidates. It was empowering to be able to speak directly with employees at companies like Microsoft, Google, and PwC about their experiences in the
workplace and the LGBTQ resource groups they are involved in.
During the keynote luncheon, we got to hear from Beth Ford, the newly appointed CEO of butter and agriculture company Land O’Lakes and the first out gay woman to lead a Fortune 500 company. I found it inspiring to hear how Ford juggles work and motherhood with her partner, and to learn about how mentorship has played a key role in in advancing her career. The key to leading a company, she says, is fostering great culture. Ford has been active in LGBTQ business community since the beginning of her career, and her visibility as a queer woman gives me hope for diversity in the C-Suite.
Being “out” in the workplace is an overarching theme, but so is driving innovation. Panel topics ranged from Design Thinking 101 to Blockchain: Changing the Game (my personal favorite). On the blockchain panel, speakers from Deloitte, Bank of America, and Exxon Mobil discussed how their companies are adapting to emerging technology. Left unsaid was that there are LGBTQ leaders behind the scenes making it happen.
Employing and elevating LGBTQ professionals, isn’t just the right thing to do, it is also profitable. I was fascinated by a TED-style talk by Eric Berger, Senior Vice President of Wealth Management at UBS Financial Services. Berger presented research about how LGBTQ-friendly employers achieve greater financial success, have higher job satisfaction among employees, and less discrimination in the workplace. Thanks to his efforts, you can now invest in PRID, an ETF of LGBTQ inclusive companies.
I am grateful for the support that the Student Leadership Initiative Fund gave me to attend ROMBA 2018. I look forward to taking all that I learned at ROMBA and bringing it back on campus through the Babson OUT Network. In the long term, I look forward to continuing to learn and engage as an LGBTQ business leader.