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How Harvard Business School Is Failing In Diversity

Harvard Business School’s iconic Baker Library

How Harvard Business School Is Failing in Diversity

Harvard Business School has been regarded as the most prestigious MBA program generation-after-generation. For years, it’s ranked among the world’s top business schools. Their alumni roll boasts stars like Michael Bloomberg, Walter Haas, Meg Whitman, and more.

Yet, there is one area where the school has struggled: diversity.

In a recent article, the Boston Globe spoke to HBS faculty and officials on how diversity at the business school remains elusive.

BY THE NUMBERS

At HBS, only nine out of 270 faculty members are African-American, according to the Boston Globe. Among students, the numbers are better, with 26% of the class of 2020 being ethnic minorities. However, as the Boston Globe reports, the percentage of African-American students at HBS has remained the same for nearly a decade (at 5% last fall, the same makeup as 2008).

“We are training people who are going to be leaders,” Steven Rogers, a senior lecturer at HBS, tells the Boston Globe. “And if they don’t have an appreciation for the inclusion of black people, then black America gets hurt. . . . All this stuff trickles down.”

HOW HBS IS RESPONDING

HBS knows that diversity is an issue and it has been taking key steps to try and improve upon its racial makeup.

The HBS Forward Fellowship was specifically created to help support students from lower-income backgrounds.

“HBS actively seeks out students from a wide range of cultural, professional, and socioeconomic backgrounds,” according to Harvard’s website. “We established the Forward Fellowship to acknowledge not just where individuals are now, but also how far they have come. And we do not want someone’s ability to pay for the MBA to prevent them from applying to HBS.”

John Wilson, a senior adviser to Harvard’s president on diversity initiatives, is confident the b-school will continue to improve its diversity.

“Based on the current dip in some areas of faculty diversity, it appears the business school is at a lull right now,” Wilson tells the Boston Globe. “They are looking to strengthen both diversity and the campus culture. . . . I believe that the lull is not going to last long.”

Yet, on the faculty front, hiring more African-American faculty can be difficult.

On one side, the issue of tenure leaves few positions open for new candidates.

The level of competition for tenure at HBS is also high.

“There are not that many candidates that are fantastic and at the level the HBS hires,” Kathleen McGinn, a senior associate dean for faculty strategy and recruiting at the business school, tells the Boston Globe. “We want to grow the faculty and diversify the faculty.”

The b-school has shown initiative in trying to attract a more diverse faculty.

For one, HBS created a summer program for undergraduate minority students to work directly with faculty with the hope that they’ll see a promising career in academics.

This fall, the faculty will also include 25 new professors, four of whom are African-American.

For Laura Morgan Roberts, a professor of management at Georgetown University and a former Harvard faculty member, networking and connections were instrumental in helping her get a job at a top b-school, like HBS.

Yet, she says, not all African-American academics are as lucky as her.

“The data tells me it is brutal,” Morgan Roberts tells the Boston Globe. “It’s still incredibly difficult for an African-American Ph.D. to be hired at one of the top business schools.”

Sources: Boston Globe, Harvard