A lot of business schools are now emphasizing diversity inside and outside of the classroom. The reason for this is very simple: diversity delivers a more enriched experience. As a result, schools now search for students who come from different ethnic, racial, academic, socio-economic, and professional backgrounds. Within an MBA program, it is known that a great part of what students learn comes not from the program, but rather from each other, which is why so many are now supporting diversity.
Why Diversity Matters
There is increasing clarity on what kind of diversity business schools now look for. In fact, many have joined a diversity consortium in order to improve their own ratings. Yet, there continue to be two different schools of thought:
1. Students should come from a variety of places and backgrounds. This means the focus is on diversity in country of origin, culture, age, ethnicity, gender, professional background, etc.
2. Students should come from specific communities that are underrepresented in MBA programs across the nation: Native Americans, Hispanic Americans, and African Americans.
At present, the schools that believe increasing diversity has to do with the second school of thought – specific underrepresented communities – tend to do best. This is because they enrich the personal experience of each student, empowering them to learn about the variety of cultures in this country, while at the same time increasing opportunities and diversity in the corporate workplace.
How Well Are Schools Doing?
Because supporting diversity is relatively new, research has been conducted to look at the different business schools in this country, and their efforts to support and encourage diversity in their MBA programs. The study focused on four key areas:
• diversity recruitment results
• school leadership
• activities and outreach
• social media
The study revealed some very interesting results, with grades ranging from A (best) to F (worst).
Need for More Emphasis on Diversity
One thing that came out strongly, was that schools need to emphasize diversity in leadership a lot more. Harvard Business School received a C grade, for instance, even though the MBA at this school is currently headed by a woman, the first program in history to do so. Their overall leadership team, however, lacks diversity. This is also seen at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and at Stanford Graduate School of Business, who both received a B overall score. All three received a D on their leadership diversity.
According to the research, the top school for diversity is Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management. They scored an A in each of the categories, and have a clear focus on diversity, even opening their Office of Diversity and Inclusion. Their Advisory Council is also made up of 20% of women, and they are incredibly transparent when it comes to their diversity efforts and recruitment.
Only 12 schools were able to receive A grades. One school, meanwhile, received an F in two different categories, which was Boston College. It showed little to no diversity in its school leadership and social media.
Controversy with Regards to the Report
The MBA Advantage Report was hugely controversial, however, particularly on schools that received an overall D grade. For instance:
• Moore School is headed by a woman, one of the few in the world.
• Steve Salbu, dean of Georgia Institute of Technology’s Scheller College of Business, is openly gay.
• Stanford had 35% female students, Harvard had 40%, and Wharton had 42%. These are higher than Cornell (32%), which received an A+ score card.
• Wharton has 28% “minority enrollment”, Harvard has 24%, and Stanford as 20%. Cornell reported a 14% enrollment for “under-represented communities”.
However, according to the report, this is because of efforts in other areas, and because minority recruitment is a complex issue. What the report also showed, which was more positive, was that:
• 34% of all business schools currently have a representative for diversity admissions, equating to 19 schools of the 54 that were assessed.
• 11 of those 19 schools mentioned the diversity representative on their website.
Where the Difficulties Lie
It seems that all schools are actively committed to support diversity inside and outside of the classroom. However, they all feel it is very difficult to attract minorities and women to their MBA programs. Specific reasons have been cited for this, including the fact that:
1. Minorities require too much scholarship money.
2. Minorities score low on the GMAT.
3. Women usually have families when they are at the right age for an MBA.
What this shows, however, is that, despite schools publicly being committed to increasing diversity, they do not accept responsibility for their failings in that. Rather, they place the blame with the potential students. Some schools, including the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and Harvard Business School, have seen a significant increase in women applicants, but not in minority applicants.
The worst schools for diversity, according to the report, were:
1. Boston College
2. Georgia Tech
5. UC-Irvine (Merage)
6. South Carolina (Moore)
The best schools for diversity were:
1. Babson (Olin)
2. Carnegie (Tepper)
3. Cornell (Johnson)
4. Duke (Fuqua)
5. Emory (Goizueta)
6. UC-Berkeley (Haas)
7. Chicago (Booth)
8. Virginia (Darden)
10. Vanderbilt (Owen)
Some Success Stories
While the new report is quite damning of the current situation, it does not focus on the efforts that schools are making to improve on the situation. Luckily, the 2016 GMAC (Graduate Management Admission Council) Application Trends Survey has aimed to address this. They have found that in terms of:
• 54% of MBA programs are attracting more women than before.
• Forte Foundation’s MBALaunch has reported an increase in women applicants.
• Kellogg has appointed a female dean in 2010, and their class of 2018 is made up of 40% women. At Chicago Booth School of Business, this percentage is 42%, and it is 44% at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, which is the same at Dartmouth’s Tuck. Meanwhile, Rutgers Business School, Newark and New Brunswick, has a class with 51% women. The top three schools, however, are Louisiana State University – Baton Rouge (Ourso) (52.9%), the University of Tulsa (Collins) (54.8%), and UC-Berkeley (Haas) (63.4%)/
• Stanford is attracting younger females to its MBA programs.
International Student Diversity
• 70% of MBA programs in this country accept foreign students.
• Most foreign students come from India and China.
Racial And Ethnic Diversity
• 50% of students at Loyola’s Quinlan, Chicago, IL are women. 27% are Asian, Latino, or African American.
• Cornell’s Johnson School has increased its minority enrollment to 21%, up from just 5%.
• Various organizations have been started to support racial diversity in MBA programs and they are becoming very popular.
• The best schools for percentage of under-represented minorities are La Salle University, PA (19.7%), American University-Kogod, DC (29%), University of Miami (30.5%), Florida International University (44.2%), and Howard University, DC (85.5%).
• More schools are partnering with sponsorship and grant organizations to increase accessibility for those from low income backgrounds.
• 27% of new students receive scholarships based on merit, 5% receive assistantships, and 6% receive fellowships. Additionally, other kinds of financial assistance are also available.
• Some schools urge students to “come out” on their applications.
• Various schools have started LGBT-Q friendly initiatives.
Age and Industrial Background Diversity
• More schools now accept students who are either younger, or older, than the traditional MBA age.
• Schools are encouraging people from diverse industrial backgrounds to join the program, with technology, manufacturing, nonprofit, education, consulting, and financial services being the most popular ones.