B-Schools Put Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Front & Center

The Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.

Last summer, in the wake of the George Floyd murder, UVA’s Darden Graduate School of Business dean convened two groups to assess and confront the issues surrounding social justice and equity on the Darden campus. One was the Working Group on Race and Equity and the other was a high-level cabinet of Black alumni that could propose recommendations to leadership and oversee their execution. 

From the groups sprouted a number of initiatives focused on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). Darden scheduled a Diversity Conference and trained faculty in DEI practice. Student acting troupes from the University of Virginia came into classrooms to recreate and work through uncomfortable dynamics that may arise in diverse spaces. The school is exploring ways to attach inclusion-based accountability in faculty performance. And, it started its Climate Index Project, bringing together students and faculty to identify metrics to really measure how Darden’s climate is changing, and hopefully improving, over time. 

 It’s not only an acknowledgment of the social justice conversations happening on its campus and MBA schools across the country, it’s a reflection of a more diverse reality, Martin Davidson, Darden’s senior associate dean, tells Poets&Quants.

Martin Davidson, Darden

“I think the world, and B-schools in particular, are catching up. We are in a global marketplace and having a capacity to engage, lead, and manage across differences is not an option,” says Davidson who first began working on DEI issues at Darden in 2008. He returned to the school as global chief diversity officer the month before the 2017 Unite the Right white supremacist rally in Charlottesville. 

“The social consciousness around identity – and the diversity of identity – is at something of a tipping point,” he said. “You just can’t be a competent leader if you aren’t engaged in this. The need for business education to adapt and to become better at incorporating that into learning is mission critical.”

HARVARD JUST WELCOMED ITS FIRST DEI CHIEF; WHARTON JUST STARTED A SEARCH

Darden is hardly alone. Business schools across the country are implementing DEI programs and courses, and they are putting real money behind the initiatives. Stanford Graduate School of Business published its first DEI report for public consumption in late 2019 and followed up on its progress in a public report a year later. Harvard Business School’s first Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer started his job in September of this year. Also last month, the Wharton School hired an executive search firm to begin a search for a Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer who will become a member of the Wharton senior leadership team.

Many schools see this as a moment in time when substantial progress can occur. “There is an energy now more than ever before to go leaps and bounds and we need to capitalize on that quickly,” says Kabrina Chang, who in July was appointed the first associate dean of diversity, equity and inclusion at Boston University’s Questrom School of Business. The school has long had a Center for Diversity along with a fellowship program for underrepresented minorities and first-generation college students.

But she believes the murder of George Floyd has galvanized society and higher education to do much more than it has. “There is no lack of energy and motivation from faculty, staff and students. Before my position was created, there was already energy. It was piecemeal and not organized…My job is to harness that energy, put some structure to it, and put some programs in place so that we can really move forward and make progress.” 

In this context, it is hardly surprising that Bloomberg Businessweek last month released its first ever Diversity Index as part of its Best B-Schools 2021-22 ranking. The index was one of five metrics used to rank schools along with Compensation, Learning Networking and Entrepreneurship. 

“The context within which we launch the Diversity Index is the historic national reckoning on race that was triggered by the killing of George Floyd,” Bloomberg writes in its index description. “Our mission in rolling it out is to assess and rank B-Schools based on the degree to which they are addressing the institutional racism and discrimination that have excluded certain minority groups and women from U.S. MBA programs.”

Bloomberg’s diversity index shows perhaps the best apples-to-apples comparison of percentages of underrepresented minorities enrolled at top MBA programs across the country, without prospective students having to compare data found on individual B-school websites. Half of the index score is based on ethnicity, the other half on gender, according to Bloomberg. 

P&QS TOP 25 COMPARISONS

For comparison, P&Q looked at the top 25 B-Schools in our latest ranking, which combines the five most influential business school rankings in the world. You can see the full breakdown in the chart at the bottom of this page.

None of P&Q’s top 25 schools ranked higher than 15th in the Bloomberg diversity index, a milestone reached by our 14th-ranked Duke’s Fuqua School of Business.  UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School (P&Q’s No. 19 ranked B-school) ranked lowest in Bloomberg’s diversity index at 73. 

Overall, P&Qs top five B-schools had mixed results in the diversity index.

  • No. 1 Stanford GSB ranked 16th in diversity
  • No. 2 Chicago (Booth) ranked 43rd
  • No. 3 Pennsylvania (Wharton) ranked 24th
  • No. 4 Harvard Business School ranked 17th
  • No. 5 Northwestern (Kellogg) ranked 38th

In its methodology, Bloomberg writes that it has wanted to offer a diversity index for several years, but this was the first year that schools provided data on race, ethnicity and gender in a standardized way that could be measured and compared. Schools provided percentages of the first-year MBA class of U.S. students who identify as White, Black, Asian, American Indian, Hawaiian Pacific Islander, Multiracial and Hispanic, and Bloomberg uses a multiplier that compares the makeup of each group in the GMAT pipeline compared to the U.S. population at large. That multiplier is then applied to each group’s true percentage at each school. (For what it’s worth, this is the same ranking that a Yale School of Management Dean couldn’t replicate in an outside analysis.)

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