An Interview with Mary Ellen Lamb on Advocating LGBT Issues


I recently had the opportunity to speak with Maryellen Reilly Lamb, Deputy Vice Dean of MBACM and Admission, about being an advocate for LGBT issues.


In 2014, you attended ROMBA, the annual conference for LGBT MBA students. What did you take away from that experience?

 Janet Mock, the keynote speaker, talked about how to “help people feel like they can take up more space.” That really struck a chord and got me fired up to find ways to expand my understanding of all things LGBT and be more inclusive of everyone. One of her challenges to the audience was to go beyond being an ally and become an advocate.


What do you think are the best ways you can be an advocate?

Ask questions. Strive for maximum understanding.

Working with Out4Biz has been tremendous for me. I get to speak on panels, give interviews, talk to peers at other schools. Out4Biz has really been my guide for better understanding and navigating LGBT issues.

I have three children, and I strive to raise them to appreciate everyone’s differences—so that when they’re adults they can be the next generation of advocates. One day, my 6-year-old came home and asked about his gym teacher, “Miss Sylvester is a Miss, but she’s a he, right?” After deciphering the question, I explained, “She’s a she. She likes sports, has short hair, she’s athletic—things you might think are boyish. But anyone can like these things. She’s a girl who likes sports.” It’s a simplistic answer, but it began a discussion about gender roles and identity—the start of many more conversations.


What was the LGBT environment like when you first came to Wharton, and how has it changed?

When I first came to Wharton, I was the banking advisor. Companies were just starting to call saying they were interested in talking to LGBT candidates. Fast-forward to last fall: the theme of our Employer Advisory Board meeting was diversity, and companies enthusiastically discussed how to best recruit diversity candidates and expand their internal communities.


What would you say to people who aren’t ready to take advantage of the safe space at Wharton?

I can’t imagine the array of pressures they’re experiencing. I see that we’re living in a world that’s changing when it comes to prejudice and personal and professional roadblocks; it’s different than my days in trading, with the Old Boys’ Club. The environment at Wharton is super open and supportive, so there’s always someone you can go to for support. When you’re ready, reach out.


Anything else on your mind regarding the Wharton and LGBT communities?

These two years are amazing. Take advantage to the fullest. This is a safe, supportive space to ask questions and challenge ideas. Inclusion is super important to me; Wharton is a place for everyone. I want to push you to be open, be receptive, go outside your boundaries, talk to someone you don’t know, and most importantly, make everyone feel like they can take up more space.


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