GMAC’s First Global Report On Diversity: Q&A With Sangeet Chowfla

Source: GMAC

What, to you, were the biggest takeaways of the report?

There are three in ascending order of surprise, if you will. The simplest one was: Where is the population that can effectively be targeted by business schools? Largely, when we talk about business schools, we tend to think about populations in the US, in Europe, in places like China and India. Those are the places where the largest cohorts overall exist. But we were able to uncover a very large concentration of target candidates in countries like Indonesia, Bangladesh, Brazil, which is frequently targeted, and Nigeria. So beyond, let’s say the obvious places, there is the next level of catchment areas for potential candidates, and that helps us diversify the areas that we can recruit from and areas that we can build pipelines for. It was not counterintuitive per se, it just refined our thinking and it provided us data of that area.

A followup question to that. When speaking of recruitment pipelines, GMAC released a report in 2017 on the “Trump Effect” depressing applications of international students to U.S. Schools. Has that effect since faded?

We had seen quite a bit of depression in international student volumes to the United States, but last year we started to see a lift from that. Then of course the pandemic hit. While we saw an increase in interest amongst international students to study in the United States, it did not manifest itself into applications or particularly enrollments because of travel and visa restrictions which are fairly severe. In this particular year, and we’ve just finished an application season, you’re beginning to see a very strong lift in international applications into the United States. We will shortly be publishing our annual application trends report. The early data is already showing that the interest and application volume amongst international candidates to the United States has shown a sharp increase. 

Oh, interesting. And what were the other surprises in your diversity report, in your opinion?

The second point is related to gender, which is obviously an important factor when we’re talking about diversity. Overall, globally about 45% of the GMA degree holders are women. So, if you’ve got 10 men, you’ve nine women associated. It’s not parity, but it’s a lot better than what it was about 10 years ago when the ratio was closer to about 7 1/2 to 10. We’ve, overall, made fairly significant progress. 

Source: GMAC

However, one of the things that we noted is that the participation is uneven across the world. Gender parity is not where you would think, if you will. As a matter of fact, amongst the major regions of the world, the lowest area for female participation by ratio is in Europe. That was a little bit of a surprise to us because you would normally think of Europe as developed and as having a high level of gender equality in society. But we do find that we’ve not really been able to make the case for business education to women in Europe. This is something that we know our European schools are very interested in. 

Some of the areas with the highest female participation from a ratio point of view are in Latin America where there are about 11 women for every 10 men who hold a business degree. When we talk about gender, we can’t look at it with a broad brush. We have to target it to specific areas and get to the root cause of why this gender inequality exists.

The third point, which is quite counterintuitive, is the penetration ratios amongst African Americans in the United States. Conventional wisdom seems to have it that African American representation in business education lacks overall representation in the population. The data actually ended up showing that while African Americans represent about 14% of the population that we studied, which is 20 to 34 year olds, they actually hold 17% of graduate management degrees. Now, when we are talking about traditional business schools — large state university systems or nonprofit, private universities — you actually don’t see that. We found in a previous report we published that, amongst graduate business degrees granted by for-profit institutions, about a third of them were actually granted to African Americans. So, that may explain that gap. 

We are used to saying, “Well, African Americans don’t get business degrees.” That’s not necessarily true. African Americans aren’t actually getting business degrees from the type of business schools that we are talking about or presenting. So, quite simply put, they’re not buying what we’re selling, but they are buying the category.

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