Not long after arriving at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management as the new dean in 2006, Judy Olian received an unwelcome gift. It was a faculty report on gender equity at the school and the news was not good. Among the top 20 U.S. business schools at the time, Anderson was dead last in having tenure and tenure-track women on its faculty, with just 12% of its professors female.
Nine years later, yet another report—this one commissioned by Dean Olian—shows that the issue hasn’t disappeared even though the percentage of women in professor ranks at Anderson has doubled to what will be 23% with the arrival of a new hire, women make up half of the eight members on the school’s senior leadership team, and 40% of the incoming crop of PhD candidates at the school are female. Still, only 13% of Anderson’s full professors are women, up from 2% six years ago.
Several peer schools fall below Anderson, according to data from The Financial Times, including the University of Chicago’s Booth School and Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business (both at 16%), Columbia Business School (17%), and Carnegie Mellon (18%). Based on that data, now a year old, Anderson isn’t much better at 19%, but no school has made more progress on this front than Anderson, rising from only 10% in 2005-2006.
KORN FERRY REPORT ASSIGNS BLAME FOR LOW NUMBERS TO CULTURE AND LEADERSHIP
Nonetheless, the new $168,000 report—by Korn Ferry—maintains that “little real progress has been made. Today, in fact, some feel that the situation is worse than it has been in the past.” Korn Ferry said the school’s “culture and climate” serve to reinforce the status quo, making it difficult for meaningful change. The study also slammed Anderson leaders who Korn Ferry charged “have not demonstrated the focused intention and proactive behavior required to increase diversity.”
That such a criticism could be leveled at a school led by a woman, the first female dean at Anderson and one of the few female deans at a top business school, is especially ironic and painful. Indeed, several women who are MBA students at Anderson say one of the reasons they came to the school is because the dean is female. To her credit, Olian decided to make the Korn Ferry report public in the spirit of transparency and in the hope that it ultimately fuels deeper cultural change at the school.
Olian says that the report’s findings were painful to read and acknowledge, partly because the school has made what she considers significant progress in the past nine years. “We did quite a number of things, but I have to think I wasn’t as vocal as I should have been in terms of my commitment to this,” concedes Olian, an Australian who had earlier served as dean of Penn State University’s Smeal College of Business. “But the culture needs to change. This has been very painful to me because of my intentions. Obviously, I haven’t led as overtly as I needed to.”