As told to AGSM @ UNSW Business School

AGSM @ UNSW Business School this year awarded three Scholarships to LGBTIQ+ students in the 2022 MBA Full-Time cohort. Coming from India, Chile and Sydney, Reno Leon, Elizabeth Paya and Emily Scott all arrive at AGSM with diverse experiences of belonging to the LGBTIQ+ community. 

To celebrate their achievements, the three students were asked about their experience of being part of the LGBTIQ+ community, why promoting LGBTIQ+ inclusion in workplaces is important and what they are most looking forward to during their MBA at AGSM.

First up in this content series, we speak to Reno Leon.

Leon and Paya are both recipients of the AGSM Leadership Excellence Scholarship – LGBTI Leadership Award, while Scott is the recipient of The Luminis AGSM Wharton Business Innovation Scholarship and is a member of the LGBTIQ+ community.

Read Elizabeth Paya's story here, and Emily Scott's story here.

Reno Leon: AGSM Leadership Excellence Scholarship 
(LGBTI Leadership Award)

Pronouns: he/him/his
Hometown: Nilgiris, India
Previous role title and employer: Product Manager, Structo Pte. Ltd., Singapore

What are you most looking forward to during your MBA at AGSM?

I am most looking forward to expanding my horizons in management thinking, forging life-long networks, harnessing the immense potential of a world-class business faculty while also learning from the experiences of a diverse and accomplished cohort. The AGSM MBA program is an amazing platform to leverage from a broad range of courses and activities, its holistic, 360-degree approach to business education granting me the ability to hone my skills.

I am also looking to add value by contributing to the AGSM story through ambassadorship. Drawing from my experiences – both professional and personal – to foster a growth mindset among LGBTIQ+ individuals from small towns in developing economies and continue to pursue their ambitions. 

What is your experience of being part of the LGBTIQ+ community and how has this changed over time?

Identifying with the LGBTIQ+ community while growing up in a small town in India in a conservative Catholic household was not easy. I recall years of mental isolation during my teenage years, not being able to talk about how you feel to anyone. 
The capacity to be comfortable in who I was came about much later in life, during my twenties. The journey to get there had been filled with hurt, bullying, rejections, emotional distress, self-doubt, and fear. It was not until I realised that, despite the adversities, I had survived and thrived through it all that I had my epiphany. I have since made it a prerogative to speak up as an advocate for the progress of the LGBTIQ+ community's needs.

Why do you think promoting LGBTIQ+ inclusion in workplaces and communities is important?

Several studies point to the advantages of having policies in place to promote a diverse and inclusive culture at workplaces and within our communities. For the longest time, LGBTIQ+ individuals have had to deal with unending stigma and microaggression, sometimes being the only person in their environment going through this experience. This when coupled with pre-existing discriminatory notions regarding gender, race, and ethnicity pushes us into a zone of being easily excluded and scrutinized. 

It is critical that we recognise the proven benefits of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion policies to organisations, with benefits such as achieving a high innovation index, an increase in productivity, better profit margins, and the collective wellbeing of the society into which we all belong. 

Curious to find out more? Read Elizabeth Paya's story here, and Emily Scott's story here.

If you would like to know more about The AGSM Leadership Excellence Scholarship – LGBTI Leadership Award, as well as other AGSM Full-Time MBA Scholarships, please visit the AGSM scholarships page.