How The MBA Became More Attractive During COVID

Business Schools Are Still Lacking in Diversity

Business schools hold diversity in high regard. Many top schools, such as Wharton and Columbia Business School, highlight the importance of diversity—both in a cultural and professional sense—in fostering a quality business education.

Back in 2018, GMAC’s Alumni Perspectives Survey found that over 70% of respondents said their business school experience prepared them to work in culturally diverse organizations. The findings highlighted an important point of discussion: the role that diversity plays in MBA programs and the workforce.

Now, nearly three years later, it seems diversity still has a ways to go within MBA programs.

A new Financial Times analysis of over 100,000 respondents from top B-schools over the past decade finds that nearly half of MBAs came from and returned to a narrow range of careers in finance, consulting, and technology. In a sample of more than 7,000 alumni of the class of 2018, FT found that less than 6% came from backgrounds in government, charities, and social enterprises. As of 2021, only 2.7% ended up working in those fields.

“Greater diversity in the workforce may make good business as well as ethical sense — but it remains limited in the classrooms of leading business schools,” Andrew Jack and Sam Stephens, of FT, write.

THE OBSTACLE OF STANDARDIZED TESTING

At many B-schools, admissions officers are starting to see that standardized testing is not an accurate, nor fair, way to assess whether a candidate will succeed in an MBA program.

“Standardized tests have always been just one indication of a student’s ability to succeed at Darden, and we continue to broaden our criteria for consideration, accepting a number of standardized tests and offering test waivers to create flexibility for applicants,” Dawna Clarke, executive director of admissions at University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, says. “Our message to applicants is to find the approach that’s right for you. Our Admissions Committee stands ready to help you consider your options and put your best foot forward in our application process.”

Darden is one of several business schools that decided to waive GMAT and GRE tests for admission during the COVID-19 pandemic in response to the closure of testing centers and the difficulty of at-home exams. As of today, nearly 67 of the top 100 B-schools are test-optional with schools, like Darden, looking into the possibility of waiving standardized testing for good.

In an interview with The Financial Times, Sharoni Little, associate dean and chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business, highlights the importance of diversity both in the B-school setting and post-grad.

“We lose sight of what is the value-add of a business school, which is educating leaders,” she tells FT. “Organizations are saying ‘we need you, the business schools, to do this so that we can have a broad pool of talented people to choose from’.”

While B-schools have taken steps toward attracting more diverse talent, it seems that there is still a long road ahead.

Sources: Financial Times, GMAC, P&Q, P&Q, Financial Times