The Common Sense Colloquy: Q&A with Aidan Currie of Reaching Out MBA
While we’re often recognized for our work on energy and environmental issues, our work on equity is equally important to us. So we were thrilled when one of our The Change Agencies partners, Bernadette Davis of BDC Strategy Group, suggested a collaboration on behalf of Reaching Out MBA (ROMBA).
ROMBA is the “biggest and best known organization focused on supporting the LGBTQ+ MBA Community.” ROMBA was looking for help on communications strategy and messaging. We worked together and developed new resources – and a communications playbook – that ROMBA will begin using this fall. With our work complete and the world’s largest conference of its type now wrapped up for the year, it seemed like a great time to include ROMBA’s executive director, Aidan Currie, in this ongoing series of conversations.
Aidan has a fascinating background that includes digital communications, management consulting and non-profit leadership for organizations on four continents. Aidan has an MBA from the Stern School of Business at NYU and a BAH in Politics from Queen’s University at Kingston in Canada.
I enjoyed working with Aidan and his team on this project and learned so much about an important, and often misunderstood, factor facing the business community: the scores of companies looking for diverse, top-tier talent. As the national organization working “to increase the influence of the LGBTQ+ community in business by educating, inspiring, and connecting MBA students and alumni,” ROMBA is in the middle of an increasingly important national conversation about the business community and the people who comprise it. With states and localities passing laws to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people, women, and people of color - and efforts to forbid the discussion of history accelerating nationwide, ROMBA has a critical role in ensuring that society reflects the values we purport to have but don’t always seem to live.
I’m thrilled to have this opportunity to include Aidan in our ongoing conversation about common sense in communications. My thanks to Aidan for sharing his wisdom with me and with you.
Q: How was your conference? What lessons did you take away from the conversations you had about the state of the business community in 2023 and the current climate of fear and hatred that pervades so much of the national dialogue?
A: This year’s ROMBA Conference was sensational! 1,500 members of the LGBTQ+ business community gathered in Chicago to celebrate this year’s theme, Queer Renaissance. Queer Renaissance embodies our resilience amidst legislative attacks and embraces everyone's right to show up as their true selves. We brought creativity, inclusivity, and joy to Chicago, reclaiming 'queer' as a rallying cry and a symbol of the LGBTQ+ community's disruption of business norms.
An important takeaway from the conference was that although we are seeing direct and hateful attacks on our community, in particular against trans people, this comes from a very loud minority.
Fearmongering, especially in political fora, is being used as a tool to drive conflict and ultimately distract people from issues that are actually relevant to their welfare. However, this has only made our community stronger and more resolute than ever to be unapologetically out and proud. More than ever, we are focused on strategies and action that continue to drive our vision of LGBTQ+ Leaders in every C-Suite.
Q: Your background and experience are fascinating. What has living and working on four continents taught you about the role of communications in business and society?
A: Communications reflects culture. How we speak to each other in different parts of the world varies quite a bit in terms of vocabulary and writing styles, but also in reflecting how we see history, the world, and our place in it. It’s critical to adjust communications based on these factors, whether your audience is an entire country or a professional society. Stay true to your voice but take the time to understand the nuances of how different people see themselves and hence how to convey your ideas.
Q: What is the best common sense communications advice you’ve ever received?
A: When someone asks what you do for a living, rather than describing your role, begin by framing it through the lens of a problem. For example, I would say, “People who identify as LGBTQ+ are significantly underrepresented in corporate America, especially at senior levels. I run an organization whose mission is to change that by providing a professional network and recruitment opportunities to the LGBTQ+ community so we can see more queer business people succeed at senior levels and enter the C-Suite.
Q: What is the best common sense communications advice you give to others?
A: Play to your strengths, especially when communicating in front of large crowds. If you’re naturally funny or charismatic, use that. If you have a natural gravitas or can convey messages with great empathy, lean into it. Don’t try to be something you’re not because you think that’s what people want. If you deliver as your authentic self, you’ll feel more confident, and people will be more inclined to listen.