Imperial 600 Avi-Chairs shaking hands with the PM and the Serbian Ambassador.


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At Imperial College Business School, we are committed to providing a place where our students and staff can work hard and achieve their goals while remaining their authentic self. We believe that everyone has the right to learn and develop in an inclusive environment.

We take pride in supporting our students and staff in the LGBTQ+ community, and their allies, working closely with Imperial College London to collaborate and provide a supportive network which includes:

  • Imperial 600: a network that welcomes LGBTQ+ staff, postgraduate students and their allies to support the creation of an inclusive culture at Imperial through events, the development of College policies and a confidential point of contact to discuss concerns around LGBTQ+ related issues
  • The LGBTQ+ Business Club: led by our students, their mission is to connect Business School students with leading companies that hire inclusively

As well as supporting our current student body, we want to champion the development of future leaders in the LGBTQ+ community. The Business School offers the Reaching Out MBA (ROMBA) Fellowship for an outstanding student who joins the Full-Time MBA programme each year.

Q&A with Joël McConnell

Joel McConnell

Joël McConnell, Executive Director of Marketing, Recruitment and Admissions at the Business School and Imperial 600 Co-Chair, shares his insight and advice about the on-going LGBTQ+ initiatives offered in and out of the classroom.

The Imperial 600 network was formed to support LGBTQ+ staff and postgraduate students at Imperial College London. What is the aim of Imperial 600 is and what is its role within the College?

Imperial 600 was established to create a sense of community for LGBTQ+ staff, postgraduate students, and LGBTQ+ allies, but the network is also a fundamental part of Imperial College London’s broader Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) strategy. 

The Imperial 600 network also supports and informs college activity and policy around EDI, external relations activities, and helps foster a professional working environment where all staff and students can do their best work, while also learning from those who may see and do things differently to them. 

Finally, the network helps Imperial 600 members advance their careers via professional developmental opportunities. The network has also played a key role in establishing the College’s reverse mentoring scheme.

How has the network been working together during a time where most members are working from home or studying remotely?

Before the first lockdown this past March, we hosted showcase events that featured senior executives from major technology companies like Google, the Global Director of Diversity and Inclusion from Bloomberg, the BBC’s Ben Hunte, and even Ana Brnabic – the Serbian Prime Minister.  But under lockdown, sold out events that bring large groups of people together have not been possible, so we’ve gone digital. 

Some of the more interesting programming options we’ve been able to offer over the past couple of months have included an event we hosted with both the British Embassy in Tel Aviv and the Israeli Embassy in London, where the respective startup ecosystems were compared, particularly from the perspective of supporting LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs. 

Another great event we hosted only last month was titled “From Stonewall to Black Lives Matter: Examining the Impact of Protests”, which Imperial 600 co-hosted with Imperial As One – the College’s BAME staff network, and our counterparts from LSE. So, while we’ve had to adapt, we’ve certainly not let up on the programming.

The School has seen a number of LGBTQ+ events and initiatives take place over the past academic year, is there a specific one that comes to mind? What made it stand out?

An Imperial 600 event I would highlight was when we hosted Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic during the UK’s LGBTQ+ History Month – which was a particularly relevant one as we hosted the session at the Business School at our South Kensington Campus. Titled “Technology and Entrepreneurship: Leading for Growth”, the event focused on topics that are highly relevant and even essential to what Imperial is about. We also showcased an impactful leader, who just also happens to be a member of the LGBTQ+ community.

The event was a success on many fronts, but particularly from the perspective of showcasing Imperial’s commitment to EDI. Many top embassies sent their senior diplomats to the event, and the entire event was live-streamed on the College’s YouTube channel.

The ROMBA scholarship is awarded to an MBA student who has demonstrated leadership in championing LGBTQ+ representation within business education. Why is it so important that Imperial is involved with this scheme?

Not only do award recipients receive a £20,000 award to go along with their Fellowship, they also gain access to a global network of fellow LGBTQ+ professionals – and recruiters from top companies that are looking to more actively engage with and hire top MBA graduates from the LGBTQ+ community. 

The recipient of the scholarship leads and represents students across the student body, encourages LGBTQ+ participation in MBA education and promotes equality both inside and out of the Business School.

By supporting ROMBA, Imperial College Business School has joined a network of elite business schools that actively support diversity and inclusion in meaningful ways. While there are only six leading schools who are currently partnering with ROMBA in Europe, all of the elite US and Canadian business schools are already active partners.

If you were to give advice to a prospective Business School candidate who wanted to apply for the ROMBA scholarship, what would it be?

If you are an LGBTQ+ professional it can feel unfair or somehow inappropriate to disclose your sexual orientation, and for some people, it certainly takes courage to apply for the ROMBA Fellowship. This is especially relevant if you are coming from a part of the world that is not particularly inclusive to LGBTQ+ people. That said, Imperial actively encourages a diverse and inclusive environment on campus and welcomes applicants not only from the LGBTQ+ community but also allies who have gone above the call of duty to help advanced the cause of LGBTQ+ inclusion. 

My advice:

  • Firstly, if you are offered a place on the Imperial Full-Time MBA programme, do apply for the ROMBA Fellowship*
  • Secondly, learn all about how companies are actively supporting LGBTQ+ professionals, use your time at Imperial College Business School to engage with and take full advantage of inclusion programmes to reach your career advancement goals upon graduation. One great way to do this while you’re at the Business School is to participate in the activities of the LGBTQ+ Careers Club, which organises events and acts as a bridge to companies who want to hire top graduates
  • Finally, get involved in the events other leading business schools in Europe host annually, they certainly are a great way to build your network across business schools as well. Two great examples worth considering are IE Business School’s LGBTQ+ @Work Conference and London Business School’s Eurout event. Other great networking opportunities exist as well, via organisations like InterTech, a network committed to encouraging LGBTQ+ diversity and inclusion in the technology sector

*The application dates for the ROMBA Fellowship will be announced soon.

The future of the LGBTQ+ community at Imperial

While we are proud of the initiatives in place for our LGBTQ+ students, staff and allies at Imperial, we stand committed to growing the community and further increasing support from allies. We hope to do this with the brilliant minds of our current and future student body.