During orientation at the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Scheller College of Business, first-year MBA student Jasmine Howard received a lesson on the neurochemistry of unconscious bias, which explored “how the brain takes shortcuts and makes stereotyping decisions,” she explains.
In another exercise, students were asked to stand up if they identified with certain groups or preferences. “There was a mix of visually obvious traits like race and ethnicity, but also some less obvious ones like ‘I am or love someone who is LGBTQ or struggling with addiction,'” she says. The point: “To learn on a deeper level all the different aspects that make up a person and what they bring to the table.”
Bias training and similar exercises are becoming routine at business schools around the country seeking to boost the ranks of female and traditionally underrepresented groups in graduate programs – and make them feel welcome on campus. The push can’t come soon enough. Only 16 percent of GMAT test-takers in the U.S. are from underrepresented populations, according to the Graduate Management Admission Council, which administers the test, and many schools have dismal numbers of minority students.
That’s in spite of a growing consensus that diversity in every form – from race and gender to country of origin – improves both the educational experience and the field of business itself, experts say.
“You will learn a lot more when you are interacting with people who think differently than you do than if you’re dealing with people who already think and believe the same things you do,” says Bruce DelMonico, assistant dean for admissions at the Yale School of Management.
And research consistently shows that diverse business teams perform better and achieve superior outcomes, such as greater creativity and innovation. Of the more than 700 business leaders surveyed by the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill in 2016, 95 percent said an inclusive culture is critical to their organization’s future success.
No wonder schools are stepping up their efforts to recruit minority candidates for MBAs and other graduate degrees. According to Juliane Iannarelli, senior vice president and chief knowledge officer for AACSB International, a nonprofit that accredits business schools globally, the institutions making the biggest strides are those “tackling multiple dimensions.”
This can mean engaging minority high school students to think about careers in business, assessing the climate for inclusion and diversity on campus, and staging recruiting events or diversity weekends for prospective business students.
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