B-Schools Predict What Awaits In 2018

Business often is a force for good in the world, says Cindy Schipani, professor of business administration and business law at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business. And in what is sure to be one of the biggest issues of 2018 — because it was the biggest issue of 2017 and remains at the forefront of the cultural zeitgeist — business, Schipani insists, absolutely must lead.

“Although the work environment for women has improved because of (gender diversity and pay) laws, pathways for women to C-suites are still elusive,” Schipani tells Poets&Quants. “For example, women were president or chief operating officer of only 13 S&P Fortune 500 Companies in 2016; this is up from nine in 2006. A better path to diversity in the C-suite would not only help the firm’s financial performance; it can also help employee retention and begin to address the persistent gender-based disparity in pay.”

Schipani was answering a call by Poets&Quants for business school deans and professors to forecast the biggest developments of the year, whether in business education, business itself, politics, or any other arena. She and several others from schools around the U.S. offered thoughtful, and sometime humorous, takes on where 2018 will lead us.

“Business,” she says, “can address the disparity through mentoring and networking programs. Access to networks and mentors has proven to play a crucial role in climbing the corporate ladder. It could also give women an opportunity to dissociate themselves from baseline negative presumptions. Business could also address the issue by being more transparent about salaries. Studies have found that transparent pay conditions tended to reduce the gender pay gap. Perhaps the easiest is to make it clear that discussing salaries between workers is allowed. When employers have encouraged such discussions or provided information about pay scales, many misconceptions about pay are corrected.”


Ross’s Cindy Schipani

Another Michigan prof, Jerry Davis, associate dean and professor of business administration, points to some success combating gender disparity — at least in the Ross MBA ranks. “Our class of first-year MBAs is 43% women, representing 45 countries and with an average GMAT score of 716 — the highest number we’ve ever had,” Davis says. Whether that trend will manifest at other schools is another question.

But it’s not the main question, Davis says. The main question is, “What will these highly qualified, diverse candidates do with their MBAs?” Davis says the answer is obvious — and telling: “When they are asked what industry they want to go into after graduation, the biggest category is consulting. The second is social impact.”

Impact, he says, is not a hard sell for today’s students. “It’s not like we’re trying to get them to eat their vegetables against their will,” he says. “Making an impact on society is what they want. My goal is to help us think of business as a means to achieve that.”


Sarah Soule, senior associate dean for academic affairs at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, predicts that the desire to make an impact will have an immediate impact — not necessarily on the larger universe of business and commerce, but on business education. “In 2018 businesses will be moving into a new era of social responsibility, which will involve more attention to ensuring a diverse workforce in which everyone feels included and valued, as well as greater attention to equity in opportunity, as well as compensation,” Soule says.

“I anticipate that the way we traditionally understand business education will change in 2018. We will no longer rely solely on the classroom lectures, but will expand to meet the needs of the next-generation student. At the GSB, this includes expanding our online offerings, exploring the idea of the virtual classroom, connecting with students across the world and continuing our focus on global study trips to provide students with first-hand global business experiences. Additionally, this will mean embracing more interdisciplinary collaboration, across diverse platforms.

“One of the great advantages we have here at Stanford is that we’re in the middle of a world-class environment that excels in enabling people to move across schools and disciplines to work together on larger concepts, which expands educational opportunities.”


Paul Almeida

But even as they adapt, many schools will be in trouble, says Paul Almeida, dean of the Georgetown University McDonough School of Business. Especially at risk in 2018 are the smaller schools, he says.

“We will see more small business schools in trouble,” Almeida tells Poets&Quants. “The economics do not favor smaller institutions or institutions outside of large metropolitan centers. Business schools with less resources are going to find it hard to compete in an environment where you have to make investments in technology, in pedagogy, and even more than before, in new ways of learning and better ways of reaching out to organizations for career placements and internships.

“These are all financially and organizationally demanding challenges, and smaller or under-resourced business schools or schools that are not well-situated are going to feel challenged.

“There will be the beginning of a shakeout in the industry. There will be a little bit of consolidation — not much. It’s not going to be radical. These shifts are inherent in a maturing industry which also is defined by global competition and change, particularly in the technology area.”

Dean Amy Hillman of the Arizona State University W. P. Carey School of Business summarizes what she expects to happen in 2018, saying bluntly: “More full-time MBA programs will close.”