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

The point we wanted to make is that there are many faces of diversity. We wanted to shed a light on the different faces by providing data that can be used by industry players, either in the region that they operate in or in the regions from where they want to recruit,’ says GMAC President and CEO Sangeet Chowfla.

What does diversity look like? For business schools, bringing differing points of view into the classroom at, say, the Indian School of Business will likely look different from those at HEC Paris.

That was one takeaway from a major new report released this week from the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC). The Global Diversity of Talent – Attainment and Representation is GMAC’s first reference guide on industry views about diversity in graduate management education, both in the level of degrees attained and in the recruitment pipelines for business schools around the world. It is the council’s first-ever report on the gaps in race and gender in business education.

In India, for example, one of the largest markets for management education, a major concern is the lack of diversity in the undergraduate fields of study of its graduate business students. Most MBAs in Indian classrooms tend to be engineers, so there is a lack of viewpoints from other professional disciplines, Sangeet Chowfla, GMAC president and CEO, tells Poets&Quants. Europe, on the other hand and somewhat counterintuitively, was found to have the lowest ratio of female participation in graduate business degrees of anywhere else in the world.  

“The point we wanted to make is that there are many faces of diversity,” Chowfla says.  “We wanted to shed a light on the different faces by providing data that can be used by industry players, either in the region that they operate in or in the regions from where they want to recruit.”

Purpose & Methodology

To compile the report, GMAC leveraged the latest global data resources from the U.S. Census Bureau International Database, the World Bank, UNESCO, UNECE, and OECD. It focused on the student-aged population between the ages of 20 to 34 who have attained a master’s degree in the subject of business, administration, or law. The report offers a global overview of student access and equity while including separate reports for 69 locations or countries, appendix data for 111 other countries, and reports on underrepresented groups’ participation in the United States as well as representation of women across the globe.  

You can read more about the report and the key takeaways in our previous story. In this interview with Poets&Quants, GMAC president and CEO Sangeet Chowfla discusses the surprising findings in more detail and context.

P&Q: What is the purpose behind GMAC’s first-ever report on diversity in global B-schools?

Sangeet Chowfla: Diversity, for a fair amount of time, has been a really important area of management education because, in business education, you learn from each other in the classroom. The more diversity you have in a classroom, the more inputs you have from different points of view and the richer your experiences. It’s been well recognized that schools have been making an effort to create as much candidate diversity as possible. 

One of the things we thought that was missing in the conversation was benchmarking data on the state of the industry from a global perspective. We thought it was important to provide all the players in the industry a benchmark about what diversity looks like. 

The approach we’ve taken is to take a step back and a look at what the population looks like. If you’re looking at gender, it’s somewhat 50-50. But if you’re looking at race it’s slightly different. We also wanted to see what the catchment pool looks like, because the feeder population for graduate business education is the undergraduate population. So, how diverse is the undergraduate population, and how diverse is graduate management? We’ve tried to lay that out in this report, so that there is a data book, almost, for business schools and other organizations within the industry from which to operate. 

How do you envision these benchmarks might be used?

There are two or two answers to that. One is, what are the goals for GMAC as an industry pipeline development organization? And the other is, What may be the goals for an individual business school? 

For an individual business school, I think we are providing the data set for a school to say where would they focus their efforts? How diverse do they need to be? How are they compared to the undergrad population in the region that they operate? Also to provide them information about how to better target their marketing and recruitment efforts. 

From a GMAC point of view, because we are sort of the aggregator of all the student pipelines of the industry, our goal is to eventually provide business schools with products and services that are representative of that diverse pipeline. Put another way: We strive to have gender equality amongst GMAT test takers, though we have a ways to go to make that happen. We strive to reflect the diversity of the U.S. undergraduate pipeline in GMAT test takers, as well as our other pipelines, in terms of race and ethnicity, for example. So, the reason why we are taking a look at what’s one step before us, which is the undergraduate degree holders, is to say, GME degree holders should at least reflect that as a starting point. That’s really how we are going to hold ourselves accountable.