London Business School Laidlaw Scholars Gigi Jia and Margarita Bicec become founding members of FLII – First-Generation, Low or Intermediate-Income. The club aims to promote socioeconomic diversity within the student body and beyond.

May 17th, 2021

This is an excerpt from an interview with FLII Founders Michelle Alvarado and Shajia Meraj by London Business School. Read the full version on their website.

Michelle and Shajia: FLII stands for First-Generation, Low or Intermediate-Income. FLII graduates like us face many structural barriers when it comes to ‘making it’ in business and beyond. And that’s if we can get in; for so many people, business school is totally out of reach.

Shajia: Even once we’re here, it’s an uphill battle. Everybody knows that your network is one of the best things you get out of business school, but nobody talks about the fact that this network comes at a huge cost. Some of the treks cost three times our families’ entire monthly budgets – which many of us are still supporting during our time at the School.

As a result, FLII students sometimes feel like they don’t ‘belong’. Often, we avoid revealing where we come from, hiding our journeys and values. In the struggle to fit in, we end up feeling like impostors.

Michelle: The disadvantages continue after graduation. Many FLII students face biases in the recruitment process. And yet at most business schools, there’s no platform where students from these marginalised socioeconomic backgrounds can come together, embrace our identities, and find mentors to help navigate these challenges.

Without this, FLII graduates lose out on opportunities, and businesses lose out on great candidates. After all, grit, resilience, a whatever-it-takes work ethic and a unique perspective can bring a lot to a business.  

Michelle and Shajia: With the help of a passionate team of students, we launched FLII Club in March 2021. It was a long process, involving lots of research and data collection to garner support, focus group discussions and a series of pitches to stakeholders across the School.

By recognising the need for a club like this, LBS has reinforced its commitment to attracting and nurturing talent from the most diverse and marginalised backgrounds.

To learn more or get involved, please contact FLII at: