Nationwide, students who identify as gender and sexuality minorities have banded together to bridge the gap between them and careers in business.
Students in the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management joined the conversation this semester and created Compass — a group that helps build connections in an effort to fill what some say is a glaring hole in LGBT student-business networking.
Carlson has already-established groups for other minorities, but missing among them was an organization that brings the LGBTQIA+ community together in the business school.
“It was just a possibility we were missing out on,” marketing sophomore and co-founder Ryan Poehler said. “There’s so many different organizations on campus for LGBT students … but nothing that connects you to the business, the professional side of things.”
Companies interested in hiring LGBT workers can reach out to students through the group, which is something other organizations, such as multicultural student groups, are already doing, he said.
Students will also get advice from the group on how to navigate business settings with a queer identity.
“Those are questions that I think no one really knew the answer to, and that’s where Compass is trying to fill the gaps,” Poehler said.
University senior business ethics lecturer Rand Park said Compass fits into an established network of student groups connecting businesses and alumni.
“It’s not like we don’t have [LGBT] students,” Park said. “It’s a spot where the puzzle piece always should have been there.”
He said Carlson isn’t a hostile environment for LGBT students, but there was a pervasive silence that he hopes Compass will remedy.
Poehler said Compass hopes to build relationships with similar groups across the nation that are already established in schools such as Harvard University.
“It’s gonna be better for us to serve our stakeholders,” Park said. “There’s self-interest as well. I see it as a very positive thing.”
Last week, Compass held its first-ever event, a coming out celebration that featured local executives in the LGBT community. The panel included companies such as Target and Clockwork, a Minnesota-based design company. The panel answered questions about their experience in business and how identity played into that.
Finance junior and Compass officer Brooke Eshleman said the event was their first opportunity to establish relationships with local businesses and LGBT students.
“It is such a personal journey, and this is finally something where you are connecting with people who have had similar journeys,” Poelher said.