How Stanford GSB Is Tackling Diversity & Inclusion

Stanford GSB becomes the first highly prominent business school is issue a detailed report on its diversity & inclusion efforts

Megan Holston-Alexander and Ladd Hamrick may come from different worlds. Alexander is a young African-American from Alabama whose father was gassed when he tried to see Martin Luther King speak in Greenville. Ladd Hamrick is a lily-white professional from North Carolina who went to Williams College and worked at JP Morgan in investment banking before landing a job in private equity.

But the two share something in common: Stanford’s Graduate School of Business. Alexander graduated with her Stanford MBA last year, while Hamrick is currently a second-year student at the school.

Alexander concedes that her arrival on the California campus as a sociology major from Clark Atlanta University came with a bit of culture shock. “As a black student during the time of the election of Donald Trump, it was a really tough time. At times I felt out of the fray.”

And as Hamrick bluntly puts it, “I am a white male from North Carolina from a PE background. I come from every box of privilege you can check.”


Stanford GSB’s first Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Report

Yet, they have something else in common besides their MBA experience at one of the most elite business schools in the world. They’ve been deeply engaged in an effort to help their business school become a model for diversity and inclusion.

Stanford took a big step toward that goal today (Oct. 8th) by becoming the first prominent business school to publish the first of what is expected to be an annual report on diversity, equity, and inclusion. The highly detailed, 32-page report lays bare the school’s statistics as well as its formidable aspirations. The study is impressive for both its breadth and depth, including everything from nitty-gritty diversity stats on students, faculty and staff, audits on protagonists and language in case studies and faculty research, even an in-depth analysis of on-campus speakers and seminar visitors.

The introspective study is the result of an 18-month-long initiative headed by Sarah Soule, a senior associate dean for academic affairs. A Stanford professor for 11 years, Soule was given the role by GSB Dean Jonathan Levin who has made diversity and inclusion part of his long-range plan. Soule’s early conclusion was the need to “report on everything,” says Soule. “The university has now released a dashboard where you can look up diversity figures across programs for the last nine years. That led to our report. One of the things I kept hearing was that it was hard to know what the GSB was actually doing because there wasn’t one place to go to see where we were.”


In many cases, where the GSB currently sits is not all that impressive. Among other things, only 15% of the school’s tenured faculty are women, and only 7% of the school’s tenure-line faculty (which includes non-tenured professors)  identify as underrepresented minorities (URM). To increase the diversity of its professors, Stanford has now established guidelines requiring that each academic discipline generate a shortlist of 8-15 candidates for each open faculty position. At a minimum, the shortlist must contain the top two women and/or URM candidates submitted in advance to a senior associate dean.

“We want to increase the diversity of our faculty, and we’ve been doing better in the past ten years but there is still some work to do,” concedes Soule, who also notes some progress. Between 2003–2012, roughly 20% of the GSB’s tenure-line hires were women, but since 2012, that has increased to about 40%, with the vast majority of whom came as untenured faculty.

Other less impressive data: Only three of the 27 speakers in the school’s View From The Top sessions, the school’s premier speaker series for visiting leaders, were underrepresented minorities in the past three years. “We acknowledge that there is room for improvement in curating a diverse set of representatives for this important speaker series, and we will support student efforts to have a more diverse slate in the future,” the report notes.


Just 12% of the business school’s graduate students are classified as underrepresented minorities, and 30% of the GSB staff are male. Stanford’s URM student population is higher than NYU Stern at 9%, yet below UC-Berkeley Haas, which doubled this statistic in the past year to 14%, or Yale School of Management at 13%. The bigger issue is the lack of historical data which would most likely show that Stanford has made little to no progress in diversifying its MBA student population on the basis of URM stats.

Give Stanford credit for actually revealing its URM numbers. Most business schools disguise this metric in their class profiles, most typically preferring to put them in the most positive light by including Asian Americans in the mix. That makes direct comparisons difficult if not impossible.

Wharton, for example, reports on “U.S. students of color,” a category that includes Asian-Americans, which are not reflected in a URM metric. At Wharton, 36% of the Class of 2021 are identified as U.S. students of color. HBS reports that 27% of its Class of 2021 is composed of U.S. ethnic minorities, which it fails to even define, though it is certain to include Asian Americans.

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