We are delighted that our Somewhere MBA LGBT+ Scholarship in partnership with the University of Edinburgh Business School has now completed its second year, and we thoroughly enjoyed working with recipient Xingjian Wang, from China. Now in its third year, we are busy getting to know Henry, our new recipient for 2021/22.
See below for a 2019 interview with the recipient of the inaugural Somewhere scholarship, Teale Failla.
Both Xingjian and Teale appeared in the launch edition of our Somewhere: For Us magazine, in November 2020.
Our Year 2 Somewhere MBA Scholarship recipient for 2020/21, was Xingjian from China
Out of the corporate closet
As the first recipient of the Somewhere MBA LGBT+ Scholarship, Teale Failla is proud to be a leader in creating a business world where a diverse workforce is viewed as an asset.
When Teale Failla embarked upon her mission to uproot how business is done, she instantly felt like an outsider.
“I would go to these MBA fairs and felt I was unlike everyone,” says the film-maker and writer from New York. “It was very intimidating. I kept asking myself, do I really want to do this?”
The answer that always came back – fuelled by a potent mixture of clear-eyed purpose and gnawing frustration – was that she did.
The business world, she says, needs to see diversity, specifically around the LGBT+ community, as an asset. In many places, however, it is still considered a threat.
Teale has experienced this first hand. In one media job, a colleague who harassed her and several of her co-workers went unpunished. In another, a boss told her that she should “get out of her gay bubble”.
“Ultimately, you can’t be your best if you are treated less than other people,” she says. “All these things led me to think I would like to have a much larger impact than I’m having now.”
Ultimately, you can’t be your best if you are treated less than other people.
Which is how she found herself at MBA fairs – places where the business world can have a smothering uniformity of appearance and purpose – wondering where to start and questioning if change was even possible.
The University of Edinburgh Business School piqued her interest and then she heard about the Somewhere MBA LGBT+ Scholarship.
“That was the clinching factor,” she says. “When I saw this scholarship, it became about a lot more than just the money. It leapt out. This was tailored for me.”
The £10,000 scholarship was set up this year in collaboration with Somewhere, a social enterprise that aims to break down the barriers to LGBT+ inclusion in business.
For Teale, it signalled that “not only are we welcome, but we are valued”. It is the first LGBT+ postgraduate scholarship in Scotland and second only in the UK to Cambridge. Teale is the scholarship’s first recipient.
It is a vital development, says Somewhere founder Kathryn Pierce.
“The corporate closet is very real and very much alive,” she says. “Until boards and business spaces become far more openly and proudly diverse, and difference is valued as a strength rather than a threat, things will not change.
“I believe it is a function of higher education to embolden people to stay out of the closet, to live authentically and be supported enough to enter a heteronormative business world with confidence and pride.”
The scholarship’s aim is to do just that. Creating LGBT+ entrepreneurial role models – such as Teale – is key, as well as making business more representative of their societies.
This, according to Kathryn, will benefit everyone, from customers to shareholders.
“Put simply, the world isn’t white, straight and cisgender male, though the current power structures predominantly are,” she says.
“It’s quite clear to see that the greater the diversity of voices, the greater capacity we have to create and maintain a fairer world, which represents society as it actually is.
“Diversity in business is also smart business – consumers want to support more inclusive and ethical companies, and young people especially so. Arguably there is a commercial driver for better representation, as well as a moral one.”
Teale agrees: “The scholarship is a fantastic step and part of that change,” she says. “Business can be an absolute tool for good. We can turn this around and business schools can lead the charge.”
With Somewhere and the University’s Business School, Teale has found allies in her mission. Once she completes her year-long programme, she plans to work to increase visibility of LGBT+ in TV networks or production companies.
“I’d also like to write the lesbian version of The Young Ones,” she says. “I think the world needs that.”
The outsider has entered the building.
by Kathryn Pierce
FEBRUARY 2019 - LGBT History Month is an especially important time as it brings together the stories of the LGBT+ community diaspora to curate, commemorate and to celebrate the ongoing and historical contribution of LGBT+ people to society and the world. And as we have seen already this month, there is a raft of creative and heritage focused events taking place all over the UK covering stories of activism, love, struggle, victory and community.
I thought it time to add a dimension to the yearly festival which often goes unacknowledged, the role of LGBT+ people in business and enterprise. I entered the arena as an out LGBT+ person having left my full-time job as the Associate Director of a voice talent agency, to re-enter education and study for an Enterprise Masters at Manchester Business School and the Institute for Cultural Practices. With an arts and media background, and a parallel working life as in learning support for university students with learning disabilities and mental health issues, I was keen to connect up these two separate parts of my working life into a focus for the future, enabling me to overcome my own personal barriers and make a difference. The idea of a new connective platform called "Somewhere" was born.
The biggest influence I have had in that endeavour is through the amount of time devoted to the Somewhere idea by other people, and in particular those who have mentored me. A special mention goes to Liz Cross, a phenomenal human being who continues to create good in the world through her fantastic organisation, and who represented the LGBT+ business role model and mentor I, myself, desperately needed.
Bootstrap social enterprises are founded on vision, passion and determination, with a need to prove social impact to attract funding. Because of this they need the brute willpower of a bloody-minded entrepreneur and a community of support to get them off the ground. As a Fellow of the School of Social Entrepreneurs in 2015/6, I remember vividly how important it was to have that eco-system of practical and emotional support around me, and lessons learned here kept me going when things got really tough. When I finally decided to move to Edinburgh in 2017, I kept seeing Leith's "Persevere" motto everywhere (see photo above), and took it as a sign.
This concept of "passing the baton" and "paying it forward" has also played a huge part in the creation of Scotland's first MBA LGBT+ Scholarship and Mentoring programme, which was borne out of taking my Master's LGBT+ entrepreneurship research to the University of Edinburgh Business School, via the Interface organisation. With my own experience as an E-Mentor for The Prince's Trust and many years mentoring and supporting young people in higher education, I was fortunate enough to meet Tom Parnell, MBA Employer Relations Manager, and latterly, Dr Peter Flett, Director of MBA Programmes at the Business School, and the Scholarships initiative was born, with the "Somewhere EDI MBA LGBT+ Scholarship" as the flagship.
Through this new partnership, I will be able to offer a mentorship to the successful applicant, who, through the work of Somewhere EDI, will have an authentic link into LGBT+ enterprise, along with connections into the LGBT+ community in Edinburgh and beyond. The two "Positive Action for LGBT+ MSc Scholarships" also apply to a wide range of courses in the Business School, and these combine with the MBA to create a dynamic and overarching inclusion initiative, highlighting the power of academic research, and the role of the Business School as an agent of change.
These new scholarships will make a real difference to LGBT+ people in business or looking to enter the world of business, proving that community and university collaborations are a force for good in progressing visibility of minority groups. Let's hope it spawns a whole new generation of LGBT+ and community allies who themselves look to the future and to the moment they too will have the opportunity to pay it forward and become mentors themselves. That is a powerful legacy worth celebrating this LGBT History Month.
Photo: Kathryn Pierce
Somewhere is interested in connecting up with LGBT+ mentors and businesses to offer a platform of support and inspiration
AUGUST 2018 - Founder Kathryn Pierce has been awarded a Merit in her Master of Enterprise (MEnt) postgraduate degree in Arts and Cultural Management at the University of Manchester.
Kathryn's research masters dissertation focused on primary research into career-based experiences of a diverse group of 15 LGBT+ entrepreneurs, and an exploration into their motivations for entrepreneurship.
The research is currently being prepared for submission to academic journals for publication.
The other 50% of the dissertation comprised of the Enterprise Project, which was to create, design and produce a business plan for an enterprise. Somewhere is the implementation of this plan and a realisation of three years' academic and community development work.
We're really excited that Somewhere is research-led and we look forward to inspiring and innovative collaboration with academic partners and like-minded organisations, to make work a more inclusive and transformational place for LGBT+ people, and all marginalised people.
****UPDATE **** This research forms the basis for a new book about LGBT+ entrepreneurship to be published by Emerald Publishing in 2022, incorporating the queer business community's experiences of COVID19.
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