Organization focuses on personal and professional development for students who identify as a member or ally of the LGBTQ community.
By Nick Erickson
According to a report by the Proud & Thriving Project, 67% of college students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer (LGTBQ) felt isolated compared to 49% of non-LGBTQ students.
George Washington University rising senior public health major Maddie Bedard has been on that island—at times feeling her identity was so dismissed that she was internally questioning herself. But since finding a place at GW that is outwardly accepting, the Clinton, Mass., native is paying it forward and helping others who may be in the shoes she wore not so long ago.
Bedard will be the vice president of the Business Pride Network (BPN), a GW School of Business (GWSB) organization focusing on the personal and professional development of students who identify as a member or ally of the LGBTQ community, whether they have an interest in business or not. She said the organization encompasses people who are passionate about diversity and inclusion in the workplace and encourages individuals to develop their personalities by building up their own characteristics. It’s a great home, she said, for students who feel that isolation.
“If you don’t have a support system at home or in the community that you are currently in, we will provide that space for you to flourish,” Bedard said.
Started in 2019 as Out and About, the student organization rebranded itself to BPN post pandemic. It meets monthly with different seminars and panelists on topics ranging from inclusivity in the workplace to mentorship with “out” professionals.
BPN prides itself on intersectionality being the center focus of everything it does. While certain networking events and workshops cater toward the business community, Bedard said the only requirement for entry is a willingness for self-improvement and self-advocacy while helping others find what they can improve upon in their own lives.
The ripple effect for acceptance and inclusivity is huge, rising junior and BPN treasurer-elect Abby Davis said. She noted how important it is for all perspectives to have influence in the workforce—including businesses and corporations—because many of those interactions go deeper than surface level.
“It also affects things like health care and medical care and leave of absences and ways in which your body and life outside of business is affected,” said Davis, an international affairs and geography major from Tolland, Conn. “That changes depending on race and sexuality, so it’s important that everyone has a voice and that members of the LGBTQ community have more representation in those spaces.”
This past academic year, BPN, in a collaboration with GW Women in Business (GWWIB), received the GWSB outstanding initiative award that recognized LGBTQ inclusivity in the workplace. Kate Dressel, the president-elect of BPN who also sits on the board of GWWIB, said the partnership for the initiative was a natural fit and further emphasized its intersectional approach.
Along with GW Women in Business, Business Pride Network won the GW School of Business' outstanding initiative award that recognized LGBTQ inclusivity in the workplace. (Contributed photo)
“I think there's really a desire for building that type of awareness when it comes to different marginalized groups within, and I think especially, the business field,” said Dressel, a rising junior from Des Moines, Iowa, concentrating in business analytics and finance. “We may have some similar experiences but still need to be learning from one another and our different perspectives.”
Progress in this arena can sometimes be discouraging, with recent legislation banning classroom instruction in sexual orientation and gender identity, in addition to the Supreme Court draft opinion leak overturning Roe v. Wade. Despite this, BPN’s student leaders believe their peers are more accepting and inclusive and are confident there will be shifts in attitude as they enter the workforce.
“The presence and abundance of clubs like ours across college campuses throughout the country and throughout the world, spreading information about the LGBTQ community and being a welcoming, inclusive and diverse space gives me hope for future generations,” Davis said.