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But in a small class At the MIT Sloan School of Management Campus in Cambridge, Mass., About 15 undergraduate business school students gather for a workshop on job interviews. The lesson is like any other for a group of job seekers — be calm, tell a clear story — but the attendees don’t see anything you expect. They are all women. Business schools have traditionally been white and male. Even today, women represent only 30 percent of MBA enrollment. Black, Hispanic and American Indians make up less than 10 percent of students in the top 30 business schools, while they comprise about 28 percent of the American population. But business schools are working hard to make their classes reflect the real world. The employers of the world also recognize. The company is “trying to build the most diverse workforce,” says Alyssa Ellis-Sangster, executive director of the Forta Foundation, an organization that promotes women’s leadership in business. Schools have followed suit, reaching potential students who may never have considered MBAfor most schools before, the problem of gender and racial imbalance presents itself early in the application process. Simply put, women and underdeveloped minorities do not apply to vocational programs as often as their counterparts. If drawn randomly from applicants, a first-year class will remain disproportionately white, Asian, and male. Consequently, diversity and parity efforts rely heavily on outreach. In 2001, the Fort Foundation — a collaboration of leading corporations, top business schools, and the Graduate Management Admission Council — was created to address the lack of progress toward gender equity in business. Schools. Law and medical schools were quickly approaching parity, but vocational programs became fully male. Admission officers were losing smart women not to competitive schools but to other subjects. Then, Fort and its member schools have spoken to thousands of women to explain the value of the MBA “We not only market schools,” says Julie Strong, admissions officer at MIT Sloan. “We market MBA as a whole.” Forte organized conferences in large cities to answer questions about funding, work-life balance, career opportunities, and the commitment needed to earn an MBA, as conducted by MIT Sloan Woman in Management, or SWIM, a job interview Occurs with the workshop. Women have a safe place to raise concerns that arise in a mixed-gender setting. Women have also benefitted from a decade-old admissions trend in business schools: increasingly young students. During the 90s, business school students would age until they had an average of seven years of work experience. It started to look like the old, the better. But about 10 years ago, undergraduate programs began to reverse the curriculum, due to the impact an aging student population had on diversity recruitment. By searching for potential students only two or three years before college, graduate programs can recruit more women when they were receptive to the message of an important life change. “If you wait five to seven years, women are more concerned about uprooting their lives,” says Ellis-Sangster. “The earlier you get them, the less wires are attached.” Dealing with the shortage of some minority groups may sound similar to the fight to reach gender equality, but the challenges are very different. For example, black women are relatively well represented in black schools, says Barbara Thomas, president and CEO of the National Black MBA Association. But, like the rest of the academia, this black men are left behind. The solution is to recruit the young. The National Black MBA Association has begun efforts in high school and specifically seeks C students who might otherwise be ignored. If he had been in his own way, Thomas would have been even younger. “High school is not really too early,” she says. “After the age of 9, if you haven’t put the child in mind, you’ve probably lost them.”
The Hispanic MBA and the National Society of American Indian Business Leaders also provide resources and opportunities for their members. There is also the Consortium for Graduate Studies in Management, a corporate and academic coalition dedicated to advancing undergraduate minorities in business. As part of its effort to attract more Black, Hispanic and American Indian students to the region, the consortium provides a common application for prospective students, hosting a special orientation program for first-year student members, And provides access to scholarships — rare commodities — in the business-school world. In addition, individual schools have taken matters into their own hands, banding together to recruit from historically black colleges or hosting “Diversity Day” events to welcome new or prospective students . Increasingly, there are two selling points. Speak clearly to both women and minorities: money and flexibility. In general, women and minorities are more concerned about the cost and convenience of undergraduate degrees, and business schools have responded. This does not mean that school is getting cheaper (it is not) or that there are more grants and cheaper loans (most students will still rely too much on standard loans). But schools have found that recruiting women and minorities means being prepared to answer more questions about tuition, housing, loans and repayments. In addition, many programs have expanded their part-time and online offerings and do not hesitate to advertise their commitment to support their students. Despite these challenges, the efforts of these schools have not gone unaffected. Last year, first-year enrollment at New York University’s Stern School of Business was 41 percent female, and MIT saw it go from 28 percent female in its class in 2000 to 35 percent after eight years. The number of local chapters of the National Black MBA Association exceeded 50 percent in five years, and according to Thomas, the late 1990s were a time of “drastic changes” in the social fabric of vocational schools: “You could feel it. You could see it. It was all around everywhere.” Now, in the wake of a historic presidential election, another round of “drastic changes” is not so unfair.
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