Nicole Richards (MBA 2023) is one of the two co-chairs of PRIDE, the LGBTQ + club at HBS. She grew up in Vienna, Austria and lived in San Francisco and Nairobi, Kenya before coming to business school. Nicole is passionate about racial justice and the creation of fairer economic systems.
How did you join the PRIDE community at HBS?
As soon as I arrived on campus, meeting other strange women was my number one priority on my list. I had a lot of open questions about whether HBS would be a place where I would feel at home, but I was hoping to find people in the PRIDE community to really connect with. The previous PRIDE management team had set up a WhatsApp group to communicate in, and we organized a pizza night in the first week of the WTGNC class (women, trans and non-gender) at PRIDE. Two weeks later I went to a PRIDE retreat with over 100 of my classmates and their partners. I met most of my closest HBS friends – both students and partners – at these two events (partners of all genders and sexual orientations are a big part of PRIDE!).
What does the community look like for you at HBS?
I feel incredibly grateful for the people I knew in all the groups I participated in last year: my PRIDE section and SECON (the social enterprise conference). I gave priority to building a community within PRIDE and especially with others in the WTGNC contingent. I experienced so much joy and ease with this group – celebrating birthdays with a cake with buffets, rock climbing in Brooklyn Boulders and dancing all night in Club Cafe. These were also the people I turned to when I felt queer at HBS because of the emotionally exhausting discussions about LGBTQ + issues or the way directness often serves as a standard in school. People in the LGBTQ + community often describe their strange community as a “chosen family” – the family I chose at HBS was the best part of the business school.
How do you celebrate the month of pride this June?
I woke up on June 1st with a text from one of my PRIDE friends saying, “I feel like every month at HBS is my personal month of pride,” so I’m lucky to be able to celebrate all year long! However, I like to be reminded in June to think more deeply about the history of Pride and the work done by activists (often black women and other colored women) throughout the story, which made it possible for me to even be here, outside, writing this blog post publicly today. As one of the co-chairs of the HBS PRIDE club, I also remember the club’s own history, starting in the mid-1970s under the pseudonym “Alternative lifestyle of the CEO” – it was not until 1985 that the club was listed as part of the student body. HBS community and allowed to meet freely on campus. PRIDE alumni also shared stories of many members who have died of AIDS, highlighting the very real ways in which crises in the LGBTQ + community as a whole have also affected the HBS PRIDE community.
June also points us to the root of Pride Month, the 1969 Stonewall Uprising, where a group of activists led by trans black women demanded justice for the LGBTQ + community. I read The Stonewall Reader, a collection of writings from the years around the uprising, as my reflection this year. I’m also so excited to celebrate by going to one of Denver’s pride parades (I’m here for my summer internship). I came out as if in 2020, when the pride parades were canceled, and I lived in Kenya in 2021, where homosexuality is illegal. So this will be my first time participating in a pride parade completely as a queer!
What advice do you have for future LGBTQ + students?
At a recent PRIDE event, a 2000 HBS graduate said this best: “Sometimes business school felt like two years at a cocktail party.” It could be a lot! My advice would be to look at the LGBTQ + student communities in the schools you are considering to find out what LGBTQ + representation in the student body, teachers and protagonists of the case looks like. It can also be useful to think in absolute numbers. For example, I’m glad I decided to come to HBS because while LGBTQ + students remain a minority, my class has about 25 other openly identifying strange women who help me feel like I belong. Finally, just remember, wherever you land, you deserve to be there, to take a seat and have your voice heard.