Nicolle Richards (MBA 2023) serves as one of the two co-presidents 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. Nicolle is passionate about racial justice and creating more equitable economic systems.

How did you get involved in the PRIDE community at HBS?

As soon as I got to campus, meeting other queer women was the number one priority on my list. I had a lot of open questions about whether HBS would be a place I would feel at home, but was hopeful that I would find folks within the PRIDE community that I would genuinely connect with. The previous PRIDE club leadership team had created a WhatsApp group for us to communicate in, and we organized a pizza night during the first week of class for “WTGNC” (the women, trans, and gender-non-conforming subset) folks in PRIDE. Two weeks later, I went on a PRIDE retreat with over 100 of my fellow students 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 community look like for you at HBS?

I feel incredibly grateful for the people I got to know across all of the groups I engaged in last year: my section, PRIDE, and SECON (the Social Enterprise conference). I prioritized building community within PRIDE, and especially with others in the WTGNC contingent. I got to experience so much joy and lightness with this group – celebrating birthdays with funfetti cake, rock climbing at Brooklyn Boulders, and dancing the night away at Club Cafe. These were also the people I turned to when being queer at HBS felt hard, due to emotionally draining case discussions on LGBTQ+ issues, or the way straightness often served as the default across the school. Folks in the LGBTQ+ community often describe their queer community as “chosen family” – my chosen family at HBS has been the best part of business school.

How are you celebrating Pride Month this June?

I woke up on June 1st to a text from one of my PRIDE friends that said, “I feel like every month of HBS has been my own personal Pride Month,” so I’m lucky to have gotten to celebrate all year! That said, I love having the reminder in June to reflect more deeply on the history of Pride and the work done by activists (often Black women and other women of color) throughout history that made it possible for me to even be here, out, writing this blog post publicly today. As one of the co-presidents of the HBS PRIDE club, I’m also reminded of the club’s own history, having started in the mid-70s under the pseudonym “Alternative Executive Lifestyles” – it wasn’t until 1985 that the club was listed as part of the HBS student community and allowed to freely meet on campus. PRIDE alums have also shared stories of the many members who died of AIDS, highlighting the very real ways crises in the LGBTQ+ community at large have also hit 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’m reading The Stonewall Reader, a collection of writings from the years surrounding 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 bi in 2020, when Pride parades were canceled, and lived in Kenya during 2021, where homosexuality is illegal. So this will be my first time participating in a Pride parade fully out as queer!

What advice do you have for prospective LGBTQ+ students?

At a recent PRIDE event, a 2000 HBS alum said it best, “Sometimes business school felt like two years at a straight cocktail party.” It can be a lot! My advice would be to look into the LGBTQ+ student communities at the schools you’re considering to understand what LGBTQ+ representation across the student body, faculty, and case protagonists looks like. It can also be helpful to think in terms of absolute numbers. For example, I’m glad I decided to come to HBS because, while LGBTQ+ students remain a minority, my class has around 25 other openly-identifying queer women who help me feel like I belong. And finally, just remember, wherever you land, you deserve to be there, to take up space, and to have your voice heard.