Improve diversity and inclusion within your business school

Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) logo

“Admissions models that consider candidates based not only on academic achievement but on life experiences, leadership background, and potential…can result in more equitable opportunities for education,”

Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)

What is DEIB?

Discussions around diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) have come to the forefront due to societal shifts that have occurred over the past few years. In the job market, employers and job seekers alike are now looking for robust inclusion programs with the goal of attaining “equity in all areas of life and [to] embrace everyone’s differences.” The desire for more inclusive experiences has also become a priority in academic institutions and business schools. They have eagerly embraced initiatives to have more diverse faculty and student cohorts and ensure all members of campus communities feel represented and included.  

DEIB is a term widely used in the business school space to describe the following: 

  • Diversity: in other words — variety. This can include ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, cultural backgrounds, disability, and levels of education 
  • Equity: ensuring access, opportunities, and resources are in place for all to succeed and grow 
  • Inclusion: celebrating differences, listening to others, and where individuals feel seen
  • Belonging: the emotional goal of a program’s inclusivity efforts

Today’s business schools cohort

As societies become more diverse than ever before, it is important for boardrooms to reflect the diverse social fabric of the communities they operate within. Nasdaq Inc. have asked listed companies to have minimum levels of underrepresented minorities (URM) and women on their boards, otherwise provide an explanation of why it isn’t possible. Even the US government has started to implement these expectations of companies: they have fined California-based companies that don’t have a specific level of women and URM serving on boards.

Historically, US business schools have had a problem with lack of diversity in their cohorts, including small numbers of women and URM graduating from top programs. Even many of the top diversity ranking schools were “mediocre at best”, leaving the business school cohort primarily made up of men that are white and come from high-socioeconomic backgrounds. Often women and individuals from URM self-select out of applying to business school as they don’t see themselves represented and believe their chances of being accepted are low due to the make up of traditional cohorts. 

In recent years, business schools have shifted strategic priorities to focus on DEIB in order to reflect the reality of the diverse populations businesses serve. As a result, conversations around DEIB have changed to include what is discussed and who is included in these conversations, identifying that it is everyone’s responsibility to be involved, including school leaders, and using data to inform actions.   

Women and business schools

Despite the majority of college graduates being women, there is a troubling trend of women opting out of getting their MBA. Among 52 MBA schools only 38.5% of full-time students are women compared to 50% in law and medical schools. Research suggests this is due to difficulty in women students obtaining funds, lack of female role models, challenging work-life balance, lack of encouragement from employers, and lack of confidence in relation to mathematics. Women are 50% of the population and the business world should reflect this. This is where the Forte Foundation comes in.

The Forte Foundation is a non-profit organization that focuses on gender parity in business. Their mission is to “launch women into fulfilling, significant careers through access to business education, professional development, and a community of successful women.” They help women to reach their full potential and financially support them through the Forte Fellowship.

Since 2002, they have: 

  • Motivated over 100,000 women to “rise up in business” 
  • Awarded $334m Forte Fellowships to women MBA students
  • Over 7,000 undergraduate women have advanced through career ready programming 
  • Over 11% increase in women’s enrollment at Forte partner MBA schools since 2001

Recognition of Systemic Racism

Underrepresented minorities have long suffered from systemic racism on university campuses. With the momentum of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, long overlooked race-based social injustices are gaining visibility and this has moved into institutional discourse. At Harvard, a group of black students started an online account called “Black at Harvard Law” where these were black students who started to tell stories that spotlighted racial inequities on campus. Similar accounts followed at other institutions, including business schools, recounting troubling stories of racism and discrimination.

As a result of recent societal shifts and these stories shared by business students from URM,  there are now DEI committees in many business schools whose main goal is to address the racial and societal inequities present on their own campuses. DEIB has now become a strategic priority of almost every business school in North America and Europe. The University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business was one of the first schools to stand out as thought leaders in the space with their DEI Plan of Action

Despite these new initiatives, many URM groups continue to opt out of applying to business schools. For example, only 16% of Philadelphia-area MBA students are black. This may be because of not feeling “valued by corporate America”. Despite black students getting advanced degrees at a higher rate than ever before, a lack of representation still exists within the business world as there are currently only four black CEOs leading Fortune 500 firms. 

Diversity pays

The evidence shows diversity within the boardroom is a must, yet there still remains a gap in this area. In order to have diverse representations in Fortune 500 companies and boardrooms, there needs to be diversity within the classroom, diverse graduates make for diverse boardrooms. Research shows it pays to have diversity. Businesses with a diverse leadership are 33% more likely to see above average profits.

Moreover, “workers are four times less likely to leave their job in the next year if they’re on inclusive teams,” said the AACSB. Evidence shows lower employee turnover correlates with higher profits. However, to achieve this beneficial diversity, an ecosystem of women and URM groups applying for business schools and, more importantly, getting accepted, is very much needed.

Attract and build more diverse cohorts

Medical schools and teachers’ education programs have already made great strides in creating more diverse cohorts to reflect the society future professionals will serve. Admissions models that consider candidates based on more than academic achievement can result in more equitable opportunities for education. Encouraging URM groups and women to apply for business school by having a more equitable and holistic admissions process can help to create more diversity within your business school.

Each of Acuity’s assessment tools has their place within your admissions process to bring about the change that is desperately needed to promote DEIB within business school cohorts and beyond. By ensuring a fair and holistic admissions process, you will encourage individuals from diverse backgrounds and experiences to  further their education and, in turn, their career.

Improve your admissions process today

Casper is our online, open response Situational Judgment Test (SJT) which assesses important non-cognitive skills such as motivation, ethics, and problem solving in a standardized way. Integrating Casper into your admissions process will support diversity, inclusion, reduce human bias, and promote a fair process by better understanding the whole applicant. 

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