While many Americans are still anxiously and angrily debating the rights of qualified transgender individuals to serve in our military — or arguing about equal bathroom access — we seem to be overlooking the rise of many transgender leaders in the world of business. Thankfully, the recently launched LGBTQ Executive Leadership Program at Stanford Graduate School of Business is trying to change that. The only major initiative of its kind at an international business school, the intense week-long training program was designed to push already experienced LGBT business leaders to the next level.
Fortunately for a couple of lucky candidates, the David Bohnett Foundation, an organization dedicated to growing and cultivating LGBTQ business and community leaders, stepped in and offered a near-full scholarship to the program for the last two years. The foundation has its own in-house selection process (you can’t apply for it) and so far has awarded the scholarship to two transgender business leaders: Mara Keisling, founder and executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, and Danielle Piergallini, a corporate executive at American Airlines.
Organizations like Bohnett Foundation and Reaching Out MBA — which aims to empower LGBT MBA students and professionals by working with 41 MBA schools like Columbia, putting on an annual conference, and funding fellowships — are quickly becoming leaders in higher education reform. Officials at Stanford noted Bohnett Foundation’s mission “to highlight these exceptional individuals. In the future, perhaps other visionary funders will follow Bohnett’s lead and help support more well-qualified individuals in our program.”
Michael Fleming, executive director of the David Bohnett Foundation, says when they were approached about the idea of a scholarship for the Stanford program, “we all agreed that one of the core constituencies often overlooked when it comes to these programs are the amazing transgender leaders in our community.”
Fleming adds, “Danielle and Mara are passionate, visionary leaders already ... our hope is that the skills, talents and relationships built while at Stanford will pay great dividends, not just to their own respective organizations, but to the LGBTQ community at large.”