Wooten: This isn’t a requirement that you give us a grade, but how well are business schools doing with respect to issues of diversity, inclusion, and racial justice, compared to industry? Are we leading or lagging behind?
Honestly, I think it would be hard to argue that we are not doing better than industry. I think one reason is what Jonathan mentioned: When you look at boardrooms and corporate leadership and CEOs of Fortune 500 companies and you look at our classrooms, you see significantly greater diversity in the classroom and that gives you hope for the future.
Recently Jane Fraser was just appointed CEO of Citigroup, and she’s going to become the first woman to head a major bank in America. Universities and schools in general have done better on this when you look at the leadership of our student bodies, our student clubs. I think in a myriad of other ways we’re doing better than industry, but I’m not sure that I would use that as the right bar.
I’m glad to use a higher and absolute standard. And on that basis I think there’s no doubt that we are improving in many ways. Because as was pointed at the beginning, these are issues that have concerned us for many years, but they’ve taken on urgency today. And there’s no question in my mind that we still have a very long way to go on all three issues — on diversity and inclusion and on racial justice on diversity.
We start by looking at the student body. And that means we have to work hard to not just diversify the student body from amongst the applicants, but remove the obstacles, both real and perceived, that typically have discouraged some historically disadvantaged group from even applying to business schools. We have a business school that has a significant undergraduate population, and a significant graduate population, and in each group we face different challenges in diversification.
The challenge that’s very different for different populations with our undergraduates, for example, as I presume is the case in other undergraduate business schools, is that our students come from local areas in which the other students look largely like them. Students of color are used to coming from areas where students of color are the majority, and suddenly nobody is the majority. These issues of belonging are different from the way they are in the graduate program. Those students have been working for some years and are used to meeting different kinds of people.
The challenges are different, and the approaches have to be different. And I think there has been progress, but you still have a very long way to go before we can even remotely be satisfied with where we are.
NICOLE THORNE JENKINS, VIRGINIA McINTIRE
I just have a different opinion: I think we’re lagging. And I think we’re lagging substantially in part because there’s a huge difference between what we as universities aspire to what we say we are, and the actual lived experiences of historically marginalized people. And when you go into a corporation or some other organization post-university, you’re actually in a more homogeneous set of people, even though there may not be tremendous racial diversity. You are more similar in terms of social economics.
So the challenges that you face as a historically marginalized people at a corporation are not the same as what you experience on university campuses, which have a far more diverse set of backgrounds in terms of racial and ethnic diversity, but also socioeconomics. And so I’m sure all of my colleagues have had experiences in your school, where there will be an incident that occurs on campus, and it’s very inconsistent with who we say we are as universities, but the lived experiences of under-represented people create such a challenge for individual students and student groups that can change their perspective and do damage to students that last a lifetime.
And I think that’s where we are very challenged at universities, in part because we are balancing free-speech issues. We cannot control students, staff, and faculty the way that corporations can — they have much greater control over the individuals who work there. And those are the challenges that we have — that we are in a fight for people’s hearts and minds, that we need staff, faculty, and students to really want to do this work, to want to be inclusive. And those are things that we’re unable to legislate. And so that’s what I think is fundamentally the challenge that we have at university, and it’s a very difficult thing for us to overcome.
SCOTT DERUE, MICHIGAN ROSS
I think we’re leading and lagging, and I’ll try and draw some pieces together from what both Raghu and Nicole said in terms of leadership. When I look across business schools, I see our students’ voices — their empowered voices — and their strong desire to be part of the solution to racial injustice and a broader set of diversity-and-inclusion-related issues. I think business schools relative to industry are proactively leaning in to these conversations and the really hard work that’s necessary to create awareness, to mobilize people to address racism in education, address racism in business.
When we look across universities and business schools, I think more often than not we are coming to the realization that racial justice and other forms of justice are a core part of our mission — Bill mentioned it earlier: scholarship, research, teaching. Someone said earlier, we have both an opportunity and a responsibility because we’re a pipeline of talent to industry. And so we’re leaning into these conversations, such as this one, because we’re coming to the realization that this is a core part of our mission.
And if I compare that to industry. Many companies, many organizations around the world, I don’t think have woken up to the opportunity and the responsibility to have diversity, equity, and inclusion as a core part of their mission. And to those companies, I would encourage them to review closely the data on the value of diversity, the value of inclusion for business results, because if you care about business results you also care about diversity, equity, and inclusion.
I think in terms of embracing racial justice and diversity broadly, we are leading, but there are many ways that we are lagging, and I would agree with Nicole entirely that we are lagging in many ways around the lived experience that we create for marginalized communities, this notion of diversity versus inclusion or belonging. It’s one thing to invite people to the party; it’s another thing to have a lived experience where we can feel included, belong, learn from each other and have a lived experience where we elevate everyone. And on that dimension we can and must do better.
But I would also argue that even on the diversity side, business schools have a long way to go relative to industry. In my opinion business schools are not as creative about where they go to discover and recruit talent relative to some companies and industry partners. I mean, look at companies like LinkedIn. LinkedIn reduced its on-campus recruiting across universities by 73% and increased its URM hiring by 23%. How did they do that? By using other channels, more diverse channels, than many universities to identify, recruit, and develop talent.
And so business schools, whether it’s because of the constraints of our own creativity or more structural reasons such as rankings that don’t value diversity — or if you’re a public institution, state-level policies that restrict diversity in a variety of ways — we as a business school industry have not been as creative about seeking out new and different channels for attracting talent. And on that dimension I think we can and must do better.
And we certainly are all doing things in this space, launching initiatives and infrastructure. We just launched our Blau Initiative for Diversity in Real Estate — it’s an industry-wide problem in real estate, and we have a responsibility and an opportunity to help address that. Our Och Initiative has doubled the number of women going into finance, at least from the business school, over the last five years. So we have opportunities, but we also have a big responsibility, and we are lagging more than we are leading.