2021 was the best year ever for women’s enrollment in MBA programs in the United States. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t still a long way to go for women to achieve equality with men in graduate business education and the boardroom, in the U.S. and globally. Victories and setbacks seem to follow each other closely for racial and ethnic minorities in B-schools and the corporate world, as well.
New research from Cambridge Judge Business School looks at gender and racial diversity at 22 top U.S. and UK business schools and finds that while B-schools are “strategically positioned to bring lasting change to the global corporate environment,” they still face considerable hurdles in trying to increase diversity.
“Top-ranking UK and US business schools have considerable international diversity, but this cannot be used as proxy for racial diversity,” reads the new report co-authored for the Cambridge Wo+Men Leadership Centre by Dr. Bola Grace, an executive MBA graduate of Cambridge Judge, and Judge School faculty members Lionel Paolella and Jennifer Howard-Grenville.
“While diversity in business schools has improved over time, gender parity and ethnic diversity are still lagging.”
WOMEN’S PROGRESS SEEMS BACK ON TRACK AFTER PANDEMIC PAUSE
Forté Foundation research released last November shows that in 2021, women’s MBA enrollment leaped to an all-time high of 41% at the nonprofit’s 56 member schools. Women’s enrollment grew at 14 of 26 top-ranked U.S. B-schools last year, and 15 of those schools — including all but one of the top 10 — now have 40% or more women in their MBA student ranks.
It’s been a long fight, and positive signs are plenty, as overall economic progress and cultural shifts in recent years have enabled better access to education and leadership roles for women. But the coronavirus pandemic has undoubtedly slowed progress. The Graduate Management Admission Council in 2021 published research showing that in 2020, Covid-19 had an inordinately negative impact on women, in part because they shoulder the larger share of childcare in most homes.
While the working world has begun to return to some semblance of normal, women still inordinately experience the lingering effects of the setbacks sparked by the pandemic. They — and racial and ethnic minorities — have seen progress but still experience fundamental unfairness in career outcomes compared to their white male peers, according to another Forté report from last year.
5 RECOMMENDATIONS FOR B-SCHOOLS
The Cambridge report, titled Diversity Leadership: Business Schools don’t have ALL the answers either, they are trying to figure it out too, includes five key recommendations for business schools to help overcome that fundamental unfairness:
- Ensure a distributed leadership approach, with a mixture of faculty and professional staff operating under official DII (Diversity and Inclusion Initiative) titles, and with student-led initiatives, to achieve maximum impact.
- Communicate DII progress internally and externally, including a visible and accessible website describing initiatives.
- Employ diversity consultants if there are insufficient internal resources to drive change for impact.
- Improve awareness of diversity and inclusion measures to all stakeholders through accreditations and effective training practices.
- Embed diversity and inclusion into teaching and curriculum, including more diverse guest lecturers and characters in case studies.
The UK business schools included in the research were: Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford: Warwick Business School; Imperial College Business School; University of Cambridge Judge Business School; Cranfield School of Management; Henley Business School; London Business School; City, University of London, The Business School (formerly Cass); Durham University Business School; Alliance Manchester Business School; and the University of Edinburgh.
The U.S. business schools included were: Harvard Business School; University of Pennsylvania: Wharton; Stanford Graduate School of Business; MIT: Sloan; Columbia Business School; University of Chicago: Booth; Northwestern University: Kellogg; University of California at Berkeley: Haas; Yale School of Management; Dartmouth College: Tuck; Duke University: Fuqua Business School.
Read the Cambridge Wo+Men’s Leadership Centre report titled Diversity Leadership: Business Schools don’t have ALL the answers either, they are trying to figure it out too.