Grading B-Schools On Their Diversity Efforts

Cornell's diversity and inclusion webpage

Cornell’s diversity and inclusion webpage

Lindsay says her assessments were based on much more than simple stats. “It would have been easy to assess MBA programs just by the numbers, simply evaluating them based on their percentage of women and minority students, but that misses the complexity of this work,” she writes. “Diversity recruitment is not done in a vacuum, and getting a candidate to apply to your MBA program, gain admission, and then accept has multiple layers and challenges.”

Regardless, there are limits to glean very much from a school’s website. Lindsay, for example, found that 34% of the business schools assessed have a diversity admissions representative, with 11 of the 19 schools denoting the person on their websites. “Eight other schools provided me with the specific assistant and associate directors of admission who were responsible for diversity or women’s outreach,” she says. “Even for the schools that included this information on their websites, I had to dig to find it, often going through the staff bios or admissions blogs to determine who, if anyone, managed the school’s diversity outreach efforts.”

In most cases, says Lindsay, the D graded schools failed to have “significant diversity content on their websites. They were a lot less likely to outline events targeting under-represented minorities or clubs and partnerships. They didn’t work with Forte Foundation to increase female enrollment or other organizations that help with minority recruitment. Those were the biggest drivers. Schools could opt not to give additional information and in a few instances that probably hurt them. They’re probably not that low but they are not presenting themselves in a way that the school leadership does not have a central focus on diversity.”


Most business schools, she says, claim that it’s difficult to attract women and minorities to MBA programs. “Some of the most often-cited reasons: minorities have low GMAT scores, minorities want too much scholarship money, women are in their prime childbearing years when MBA programs most want them,” says Lindsay. “There are hints of truth in each of these challenges. The problem is that culpability for the lack of gender and ethnic diversity in MBA programs continues to be placed on the candidates themselves and not shared by the institutions, which have significantly more authority to change the landscape than they currently utilize.”

Lindsay says it’s not about “ill intention, but often poor results and lack of awareness on effectively recruiting women and minorities that had led to this industry-wide complacency. Many MBA programs had expended substantial resources on diversity initiatives over the years with little to no results in return. For many, cracking the diversity recruitment code became wishful thinking versus a business strategy.”

While several top schools, most notably Harvard Business School and the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, have made significant gains in female enrollment, there has been much less progress on the minority front. “The result has waned around minority recruiting,” says Lindsay. “To put out dollars and not get results year after year is frustrating and hard to explain. They say, ‘We haven’t figured this out.’ And when you are in line with your peer schools, you can say this is a bigger issue than business schools can tackle. There just aren’t enough (under-represented minorities) in the pipeline.”

As for school leadership, Lindsay found that the median percentage of woman on the dean’s senior staff was 38% (average was 37.9%). There were five schools (9%) that had no women on their senior leadership team. Of the 11 schools with less than 25% women on their senior leadership team, their Overall Assessment score was a 5.7, while for the 11 schools with the highest percentage of women, all above 55% women, the Overall Assessment score was a 6.7.

“Gender parity is the goal,” maintains Lindsay. “Diversity is not served by having all women on the school’s senior leadership team; however, within this framework, I did not penalize a school with a higher percentage of women. Five schools had more than 65% women, with two having more than 75% women on the senior leadership team. There was no team of all women. There are twelve schools led by a dean who is a woman or under-represented minority.”

(See following pages for our tables on the schools with the best and worst report cards)

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