Given the number of acronyms that float around HBS, it’s all too easy to get a little confused. Perhaps this quiz better illustrates my point. Pick which number you think GLSA stands for:
1) Gratuitously Loquacious Sectionmates Anonymous
2) Gnome and Leprechaun Shareholder Alliance
3) Gross Leverage and Sales after Amortization
4) Gay and Lesbian Student Association
Popular as number 1 might be, the Gay and Lesbian Student Association serves several important roles at HBS.
First and foremost, the GLSA exists to support gay and lesbian students. Some would argue that HBS is already a comfortable and considerate place for gays and lesbians to be themselves. To a large extent, I agree. Any environment in which heterosexual people refer to their boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, or wife as their “partner” can’t be all that difficult for gay people. Moreover, the administration makes it very clear that discrimination based on sexual orientation will not be tolerated. My own experience in section last year serves as even further evidence of the ease of being openly gay at HBS.
Nonetheless, it is important to have a venue for gay and lesbian students to discuss issues regarding sexual orientation and their relevance in business environments. Judging by the relatively small number of GLSA members over the past few years, there are still a significant number of gay people at HBS who choose not to be “out”. Clearly, this is a personal decision and it is not the mission of the GLSA to recruit a certain quota of members. However, I personally know several gay individuals who feel that “coming out” at HBS is not an option for them, and I don’t doubt there are others who struggle with this issue. In a nutshell, the GLSA exists to assuage their fears and help make HBS a place where everyone can feel comfortable being themselves.
The GLSA also exists to help shape the HBS community and the workplaces that we will all become a part of when we graduate. Over the past decade, tremendous gains have been made, and openly gay and lesbian individuals have become generally accepted members of the business community. Nonetheless, there is still much progress that can be made. By understanding and acknowledging the role of the GLSA at HBS, we move one step closer to capitalizing on the full value of our differences.
So next time you hear about the GLSA, remember that it has nothing to do with gratuitousness, gnomes, or amortization.
Alex Mandl is September Co-President of the GLSA.