Wooten: And now I’d like to shift a bit to solutions, what or how we can do better. So for the next question: What approaches can leading business schools take to increase the diversity of their student body?
I actually think that the key to success here is very much related to what we’ve just been talking about, which is to say that I think every school has asked itself, “What do you stand for and are your values clear? And do you live those values?” Because ultimately your ability to recruit effectively is going to depend on the climate that you create within your organization — your ability to create this real sense of belonging. And the best recruiters that all of us have, if they’re in the right place are current students and alumni.
And so here’s where things get a little bit wonky, which is, depending on what you stand for, you have to recognize that not everyone will support your efforts. And I think that this is very important to realize — that not everybody is is going to be completely on board with all the things that you’re trying to do to create a more diverse, more inclusive environment. In fact, what we know in terms of system change is that the more you try to drive these changes, the more the status quo will organize to resist those changes. A fact of life is that the business community in this country has been dominated by white males for many, many years, and so the status quo is white male. And the reason why I flag this is that resistance to change then creates narratives, which I think happens in any kind of organization.
So one narrative that I imagine all of you have experienced — if you haven’t, lucky you — is the false narrative or false dichotomy of either you choose diversity or you choose excellence, and that there are some tradeoffs that you must accept in order to pursue diversity. And the reality is, you will have people in your community who are saying these things, and you have to be prepared to say what you stand for and why you do not believe in that false dichotomy.
A second thing that that pops up that I think is unique to business schools, because we are so dependent on the paradigm of market economics: the notion that competition will eradicate any behavior that reveals discrimination, that we will compete that away. And this leads to the argument that we shouldn’t look at any kind of diversity issues. Rather, we should have a pure meritocracy.
I think the arguments around meritocracy actually connect directly to our reliance on market economics as a solution, but here’s the shocker: Even those of us who are economists by training realize that markets fail. And so we have to make sure that people understand that markets fail, and that we need to take actions that will in fact remediate some of these issues that are so persistent, and if you ignore those — if you ignore those narratives — I think you do so at your peril. The point is, you have to confront these issues head on. You have to create an environment where you talk about these areas of disagreement and bring out why it is one person believes one thing and another believes another. But at the end of the day, what do you as an institution stand for, and what commitments are you willing to make to get to where you want to go?
This is something that we have spent a huge amount of time thinking about at Stanford and I know that’s going to be true for all of my fellow deans here. I’ll just start by saying I don’t think there’s any one single thing. There are many things, and the places where we have been successful have involved doing many things in a sustained and focused way and being persistent. I think one of the ways that we have had some of our best success is by working with our students and our alumni. We’ve put a lot of work into outreach and into trying to expand our applicant pool to reach groups that were historically under-represented. Our students over the summer will have hundreds of meetings with prospective applicants from under-represented populations. That’s been tremendously valuable to us over the last several years.
We try to do a lot of measurement. So we try to look very carefully at what our applicant pool looks like, what our class looks like, and you have to measure if you want to see if you’re going to make progress and get anywhere in terms of representation in a class. And that’s really paid off for us in areas like gender equity, where we’ve just about reached parity, in things like attracting more international students. And it’s starting to pay off in attracting larger numbers of under-represented United States minorities, but it’s an area that we certainly need to work harder in and keep focused on. We have more more progress to be made and we need to use all the tools, and we’re trying to be creative. Now we’re thinking about working with historically black colleges in terms of partnerships, in terms of better outreach.
I think we will make progress in that area, but we’re going to have to work really hard at it and be focused on it. I think we’ll follow the same philosophy, which is to try to not limit ourselves to one tactic but try to find different things, experiment, see what works and measure, so that we can see what’s working and what’s making a difference in terms of increasing the representation of our applicant pool. And then, when it comes to selection of candidates, we just want to attract an incredibly talented group of students, and a group of students who will collectively come together and form an amazing class, so we don’t think of it as a tradeoff between excellence and and diversity — we think those things are part and parcel together. And I think that’s helping. That’s a good philosophy to go into an admissions process with.
What can we do to increase the diversity of faculty and staff?
I think one thing that we do at universities is, we put a lot of authority and responsibility on the faculty, but it’s not clear that we help our faculty to execute accurate assessments in the hiring process, either for staff or faculty. So we must teach faculty the managerial skills they need to successfully coach, mentor, and collaborate all members of the university community.
This will not only help historically marginalized individuals but everyone in the organization. So some of this could look like de-biasing methodology, which is being used in our hiring and evaluation practices for staff and faculty, and expanding the way that we evaluate faculty. We generally evaluate faculty based on their research productivity in their classroom instruction, but what if we also had expectations for senior faculty around true mentorship of all junior faculty, and we were more robust in how we evaluated faculty’s ability to create inclusive classrooms. These are some of the things that we could do that would really go a long way in helping historically marginalized individuals that we recruit to the organization be retained and thrive in the organization.
Where do these schools get the Ph.D. students from? There’s a standard pipeline that they use to get Ph.D. students from certain locations from certain countries. I think the key thing we need to do is to break that pipeline challenge and use other ways of attracting faculty into the profession. At Stern, we are casting the net a lot wider, and we’re going beyond just the standard 10 schools we hire from, which is all the schools on this panel, and we’re looking beyond that at talented people.
The second thing we’re doing is, we launched two years ago something called Diverse Pathways, when we go to talented Ph.D. students from under-represented populations, but not in business schools or even business-related fields, because oftentimes they may not have automatically thought of business schools is an option. And we talk to them. They speak to many of our faculty over two days, interacting very intensively. And if even a few of them express interest in business schools and apply to one of our competencies, all of us will be delighted. Even our guests we are trying to diversify through a postdoctoral fellows program that was also launched a few years ago where, again, talented but under-represented groups get mentorship from a single faculty member for two years before they go on the job market.
I think there’s an enormous pipeline problem, but much of it has to do with the way we do hiring, and we need to break that the way we do hiring. And so we have a multi-pronged approach in trying to do this. It’s an issue like the student diversity issue on which we are putting lots of attention, breaking the way we do things for students and faculty.
Yes, so I am working with some of the faculty here, and what we are trying to do is really embedded in making it a strategic issue, and embedding it in our culture. Typically we go out and say that we have a very cooperative culture, very collaborative culture, and we create leaders with empathy. Well, if you don’t have inclusiveness, if you don’t appreciate the “I,” how can you cooperate? This is not AI, where we’re going to try to make more courses — but we are trying to say “This is who we are, this is part of everything, which is co-curricular and creating the culture. The inclusion aspect is going to be a part of it — obviously if you don’t have that, how can you claim to be a cooperative person, to be a person with empathy? So we’re trying to make it this is who defines us.
First, I would say that every student needs to understand that diversity is not only an issue of social justice, but it’s also good business. And so every business leader in today’s global marketplace must be able to lead diverse teams and build inclusive organizations. And so every student needs to understand that on a really deep and profound level.
We need to be integrating diversity, equity, inclusion into the core experience, so that when we’re talking about marketing we’re talking about cross-cultural issues that arise when segmenting your markets globally. When we’re talking about finance, we’re talking about inclusive access to markets. When we’re talking about business fundamentals, diversity has to be integrated and woven into that in a really deep and and profound way. If we can get everybody to understand those things we will be in a much better place.