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Bring Your Personality, Drive, And Curiosity Every Day – Thomas Meehan, UT Austin McCombs Class of 2024

To mark PRIDE month, we’re sharing the stories of inspirational business school students and alumni around the world who are using their business school experiences to make the world a more inclusive place.

  • Name: Thomas ‘Tommy’ Meehan 
  • Position: Summer Associate: McKinsey & Company
  • School:  UT Austin BA Government; UT McCombs MBA 2024
  • Reaching Out MBA (ROMBA) Fellow 2024

Tell us more about Reaching Out and the ROMBA Fellowship

I was first introduced to Reaching Out MBA or ROMBA while researching MBA programs and evaluating which would be the best fit. I attended ROMBA’s virtual conference in 2021, and it was the perfect opportunity to connect with MBA programs, participate in dynamic and inclusive programming all while experiencing the largest gathering of LGBTQ+ students and professionals.

During the conference, I also learned about the ROMBA fellowship and the benefits from receiving a fellow designation. From financial assistance to exclusive leadership programming, ROMBA’s fellowship program and partnership with top business schools have led the charge to increase LGBTQ+ representation and opportunities while creating future leaders in the business community.

After my first ROMBA conference, I felt more empowered to share my story, apply to programs, and strive to be selected as a ROMBA Fellow. Fast forward to fall 2022, I had accepted my offer from the McCombs MBA program and to my surprise, I was named a ROMBA Fellow for the class of 2024. I will be forever grateful for the fellowship experience because through it, I have created lifelong friends, broadened my LGBTQ+ network, and made an impact both personally and professionally.  

What other initiatives or programs does your business school support to empower LGBTQ+ students on campus?

During my research, I learned through conversations with UT alums, current students, and admissions officers the full extent of McCombs’ inclusive environment and the number of groups that promote diversity. For example, McCombs’ MBA LGBTQ+ affinity group, eQual, has launched several initiatives, including a program-wide National Coming Out Day and a mentorship program for undergraduate business students through the Queer Business Student Association. Apart from eQual, a favorite among McCombs students is the “Storytelling Series” produced by the Graduate Business Council and Consortium. Each week students share personal stories centered on varying themes, which provides opportunities for interconnectivity and individual empowerment within the MBA class.

How important is it for business schools to have such initiatives? 

It is imperative that business schools have initiatives and programs that empower and enrich the lives of their students. People from all walks of life join for two years to build technical skills and pivot into new careers, taking their skills and experiences into the business world. Yes, learning to build a model, use R, or read a financial statement is essential, but I believe that the relationships and dynamically colorful experiences that we walk away with are just as important.

These experiences help expand a student’s worldview and are woven into how they approach connection and leadership. When a business school creates a more inclusive and welcoming environment, fosters diversity of thought, and promotes equality, they are enabling all LGBTQ+ students to thrive both academically and professionally, while helping shape the business community one future professional at a time.

How have you seen attitudes and inclusivity towards LGBTQ+ individuals evolve within the business sector since you started your career?

My experience working in the private sector is limited to my recent summer internship; however, I can speak to what I witnessed during my decade-long tenure in the Texas Legislature. My past public sector experience provided a front-row seat to the advancements and attempted rollbacks of monumental gains for the LGBTQ+ community.

Sometimes it felt like each step forward brought the community two steps back. Still, through it all, the evolution of the private sector’s attitudes and inclusivity towards LGBTQ+ individuals helped steer national and local conversations. Global companies and heritage brands have also stepped up and out with their employees to apply political and economic pressure to drive enduring change.

What more could be done to create a more inclusive environment in business generally for LGBTQ+?

There has been significant progress in the past decade, from changes in corporate policies to improved representation across industries, yet there is still much more work to be done. A recent Gallup survey shows that 7.2% of Americans identify as LGBTQ+, with an increase in younger generations. To create an even more inclusive environment in business for LGBTQ+ professionals, companies should focus on transforming their culture to allow everyone to bring their whole selves to work and create equal opportunities for LGBTQ+ advancement.

Employees are asked to devote a substantial portion of their lives and time to work, and we must be allowed to be ourselves in the office. Personally, I am more likely to stay with a company that accepts and recognizes who I am as a gay man. When acceptance is a given, it allows LGBTQ+ professionals to contribute in a more fulfilling and productive way, which is excellent for business and makes for happier employees. And, importantly, it’s the right thing to do!

What advice would you give to other LGBTQ+ individuals who are considering pursuing a business education?

Everyone’s journey will be different, but here are three tips I have for LGBTQ+ individuals considering an MBA.

1.    Due diligence. Research and seek out schools that align with your values. It is a considerable step to head back to school. Be sure you are in it with an educational partner who understands and supports your goals.

2.    Connect. Reach out to affinity groups, chat with students and alums, and leverage your position as an applicant to ask questions about mentorships, fellowships, and scholarship opportunities. It’s surprising how one conversation can change your view of a school.

3.    Embrace your authentic self and show up unapologetically every day. I brought my personality, drive, and curiosity to each intro session and shared my story in applications and interviews. Remember, your voice and presence matter- show them what they are missing!

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