Grading B-Schools On Their Diversity Efforts


Nicole Lindsay is founder of DiversityMBAPrep

Late last year, Nicole Lindsay was working as a consultant for an organization that wanted to strengthen its website’s diversity content. To prep for a brainstorm, she surfed through more than 175 websites, including those of 140 U.S.-based graduate business schools.

What Lindsay found surprised her. More than 80 of 140 (nearly 60%) of the business school websites failed to devote a single page devoted to diversity, nothing to encourage interest or applications from under-represented minorities or women.

She recalls that her first thought was ‘These schools don’t want diversity.’ “Maybe they would prefer to have more women and minorities given a choice, but they could exist without it,” says Lindsay, a Darden MBA who had once been in charge of diversity admissions and student affairs for the Yale School of Management. “Setting the quality of such a page aside, I felt that even a poor diversity page would acknowledge, at some level, that the school had a desire to engage women and under-represented minorities as students.”


The result of that experience, following years of work in the diversity space, is a new report card that grades the top 56 U.S. business schools on diversity. Lindsay says she spent about eight weeks compiling the results of her study, called “The MBAdvantage Report,” and another four weeks writing the final report. The benchmarking study compares schools’ efforts, assigns letter grades to the schools, and makes recommendations on how they can improve.

Each school received an overall grade based on separate A to F grades in four key areas: web and social media, activities and outreach, school leadership, and diversity recruitment results. Though the grading was systematic, it also was by its very nature subjective–based on Lindsay’s assessment. She currently runs Stamford, Ct.-based DiversityMBAPrep, an initiative to increase gender and ethnic diversity at top MBA programs.

No doubt, Lindsay’s school report cards are likely to be highly controversial. Harvard Business School receives a grade of C from Lindsay, even though the school’s MBA program is headed by the first woman in its history. In fact, for diversity of school leadership, Harvard is given a lowly grade of D. Rivals Stanford Graduate School of Business and the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School fare much better. Both schools earned B+ grades, but also received D grades on school leadership as well.

The only school to earn a grade of A+ in the study was Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management, garnering straight As in all four categories. Lindsay noted that Johnson’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion pages captured a strong sense of community, with “great pictures, content, and resources.” She found “excellent detail on ways for diverse candidates to connect with the school” along with “strong female representation among the Dean’s senior staff. One of the eleven schools with 20% or more women on its Advisory Council.” And when it came to actual results, she said Johnson displayed “excellent transparency with strong diversity recruitment results.”


All told, a dozen schools were awarded grades of A. They include Babson College, Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School, Chicago Booth, Duke University’s Fuqua School, Emory University’s Goizueta School, and UC-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business (see table for complete list on following page).

The only school to receive two F grades, in web and social media and school leadership was Boston College. Lindsay noted that BC’s Carroll School got the flunking grades largely for not making any diversity activities or outreach apparent on its website and for having a mission statement that failed to incorporate diversity.

Of the top 56 business schools, only half a dozen got either a grade of D or D+ for their overall diversity efforts: Boston College, Georgia Tech, Northeastern, Thunderbird School of Global Management, UC-Irvine’s Merage School, and the Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina.


In some cases, it’s ironic that some of these schools were singled out by Lindsay. The Moore School, for example, is one of the few business schools in the world endowed by a woman, Darla Moore. Georgia Institute of Technology’s Scheller College of Business is the only prominent business school whose dean, Steve Salbu. is openly gay. The percentage of female students at Wharton (42%), Harvard (40%) and Stanford (35%) exceed those at A+ Cornell (32%). Interestingly, the big three also appear to have a greater representation of minorities than Cornell. Wharton reports its “minority enrollment” at 28%, Harvard at 24% and Stanford at 20% versus a 14% number for “under-represented minorities” at Cornell.

  • Krystal Bradford

    There is this pervasive myth that underqualified blacks and latinos and taking the place of more qualified whites or poorer whites and if we look at the numbers, that simply is not true. Under-represented minorities make up 30% of the country yet only make up 8% of students in top MBA programs. If you believe that in a country where there were more children of color born than white, that it is not beneficial to have the perspective of people of color because they happen to have money you, absolutely should go to b-school and take a marketing and ethics class. Money or no money people of color are not treated equally in this country and that has translated itself to corporate America. It is a benefit to everyone to have Diversity.

  • UrNotSorryIfSystemIsntAgainstU

    I go to Johnson and the topic of diversity is extremely polarizing, but people afraid to speak out strongly. I am a minority too, but Asian, and it is obvious that “average” numbers were not enough to get people like me in. My classmate brought up the different backgrounds of some people in are class, the reality is that most people, minority or not, come from a traditional finance and business-type background. Our admissions committee is not diverse as well, and it shows in our student body. I will be very careful how I phrase this: there seems to be an overemphasis on women and URMs in terms of outreach and opportunities at Johnson. Almost everything from scholarships, leadership programs, and other extracurricular opportunities smells of quota-ing.

    Don’t get me wrong, everyone is still friends with each other because we’re a smaller school. It does not befit a school like Johnson to play favorites when you have other groups, who are still legitimately minorities, held to seemingly different standards.

  • OutInTheWorld

    Here is the reality of AA. It is an insidious program that places minorities in schools in which they are under-qualified, even if only slightly. Well, if flunking out of Harvard meant more than graduating from Ohio State, that would be fine. But it’s not and so we have not increased the percentage of minority graduates with AA.

    And when you get hired, you will be assumed to be less competent (i.e, you made it through AA) until you prove otherwise. You’ll have to work harder early in your career, due to AA.

  • JP

    Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University is in the top 15 of every major ranking.

    So yeah…it has a b-school.

  • JP

    Well I think cheetarah1980 and MBAOver30 have said all that need be said on the topic. Extremely well articulated points with valid examples.
    I think the main problem seems to be people’s belief that AA is somehow a hinderance to those not covered by it (white males). That has to be impossible because the URM stats for the schools would be much higher.
    And to believe that a URM with lower application stats (GMAT/GPA) got in over a white male with higher application stats simply because they were of a certain race, implies that you don’t really know how these schools operate. As cheetarah and MBAOver30 pointed out previously, its a combination of application stats AND experience. The package needs to compliment what the school is looking for.

  • JP

    Roger, to use the defense that someone’s opinion should not be offensive is nonsensical. Do you think referring to a b-school with a diverse population as “Epcot centre” or a “safari” as a compliment?

    And at no point did I jump on the diversity bandwagon either. I have my own views about it that I did not share.

    Racism is not a “diverse opnion”; offensive, ignorant, destructive, superior, negative, sure…but not “diverse”.

    And as I said before, those kinds of comments are actually the reason why schools have to make concerted efforts to facilitate diversity.

  • Great response, cheetarah1980.

    While the data is not completely clear (and in my report I ask schools to be more transparent), in my estimation there are less than 700 Black, Hispanic and Native American students out of the more than 12,500 MBA students at the 56 top business schools I assessed.

    Nicole Lindsay

  • Hi Anwar – thanks for your comment. I am the author of the MBAdvantage Report. My report at its core is about recruiting. I wanted to develop a more systematic way for business schools to approach their efforts to recruit and retain candidates. Women and particularly minorities are grossly under-represented in MBA programs, and this is my area of expertise, so this is where I focused. But the underlying analysis would be the same for any group – for example if a school wanted to recruit more candidates from a certain professional such as education or the military.

    I disagree with you – diversity is not discrimination. I actually think it’s the opposite. Diversity efforts are designed to bring the best of the best to the table to compete. For example, women have made up more than 50% of college graduates for the last 20 years and still today make up less than 32% of MBA students. In working with young professionals and MBA candidates over the last ten years, it’s clear to me that business schools are missing out on tremendous talent by not being proactive enough in their outreach. I expect that you, like me when I was an MBA student, want to be in class with the most talented and capable peers who are going to incredibly successful. I’m suggesting that currently business schools aren’t capturing that all of that talent and all students are missing out because it. Getting the best of the best will result in more women in MBA programs and frankly increase the competition and the quality of the candidate pool.


    Nicole Lindsay