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

This chart shows the comparison of Hispanic American in terms of total GME degrees and GME degrees by females. Source: GMAC

What did the report find about Hispanic participation?

There is also a fourth takeaway to do with the United States: When you add for-profit and not-for-profit business schools together, there is decent and maybe even slightly over representation for African Americans. One way to think about that is that 2.5% of the white population that we studied (ages 20-34) has a graduate business degree while 3% of the African American population had a business degree. 

But the point that I worry about a lot is that only 1.3% of the Hispanic population that we studied had a business degree. The Hispanic population, as you know, is the second fastest growing population behind Asian Americans. It is a very large, fast growing population segment in the United States, particularly in the younger age groups. If, as an industry, we do not start getting more Hispanic Americans into business education, we will eventually, as a collective of business schools, reduce the available population for recruitment. So, apart from a diversity conversation, which is very important, it is also a pipelined conversation. If 30 to 40% of your population isn’t going to business school, then you’re going to have a smaller and smaller pot to reach into.

Can you think of any particular outreach programs that seem to be successful in recruiting Hispanic business students?

I don’t want to get into specific programs, but there are a couple of points that can be made. One is that we know from other sociological oriented research that the Hispanic population tends to be very community oriented. In the United States, it has kind of been a rite of passage that you leave to go to college. You have that picture in the movies where the kid gets into a car, he puts a mattress on the roof, and drives off to college. That doesn’t really work very well in the Hispanic population who tend to stay very deeply rooted in the local community. 

There is a locational issue, I would argue, in the United States. Many of our business school institutions are in the North, Northeast, while the Hispanic population is in the South, Southwest, which is actually under penetrated by business schools relative to the size and growth of the population. 

The second point is we are not building enough role models. There is a lower level of representation of Hispanic professors, Hispanic business school deans, as well as, I would argue, Hispanic business executives. It is the same issue we’ve had with African Americans and continue to have with African Americans. The point we’d make is that the issue doesn’t stop with African Americans, but we also have to consider Hispanic Americans and how to build that particular pipeline. 

Perhaps it is worth noting that African American representation is really a share problem, it’s not a category problem. We are losing share to for-profit business schools, who are competing for African American talent. With Hispanic Americans, it is really a category problem. We are just not attracting enough of them to business education.

Was a report of this scope and area of study something business schools were asking for? Why was now the right time?

Well, once you’re finished doing it, you almost always end up saying why didn’t we do it sooner? And, and that’s fair. I think the important thing right now is that with the heightened awareness around diversity, both in the United States but around the world, we’re looking at it from a much broader lens at this particular point of time. But the conversation has always been there. 

We’ve always been in discussions with business schools about this issue. Business schools are very hungry for data about diversity. Their idea of a comprehensive report of this nature, though, was actually born within GMAC as an organization. 

In summer of last year, we were going through our own strategic review and how we would continue to add value to business schools, beyond our traditional core business of admissions testing and the GMAT exam. We did a series of conversations with business schools around the world, and one common word we kept hearing was diversity. That led to a discussion that we had with our board that said we should really focus on diversity as a major goal for GMAC moving forward: Building a diverse candidate pipeline as a service to business schools. As we got into that, we discovered that there was no real foundational data set for us to operate on or for us to offer to our partners in business education. That led us to start this activity which has been about nine months in the making. 

Read GMAC’s full global report on diversity here.


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