Friday, March 04, 2016 at 9am

3 Easy Ways to Take Advantage of Diversity in Business School

Diversity

The concept of a global economy is becoming more and more of a reality for those who aspire to leadership. This means that diversity is becoming even-more essential in business modeling and in the general makeup of MBA programs. Simply put, top business schools have begun to recognize that diversity matters.

And this translates directly to the workplace. A recent study by McKinsey demonstrated that ethnically diverse companies are 35% more likely to succeed than those that remain homogeneous.

“Companies in the top quartile for gender or racial and ethnic diversity are more likely to have financial returns above their national industry medians,” the study found. “Companies in the bottom quartile in these dimensions are statistically less likely to achieve above-average returns. And diversity is probably a competitive differentiator that shifts market share toward more diverse companies over time.”

So, what does this mean for your experience in graduate school? How can you take advantage of the fact that diversity in business is such a rich and important part of the modern economic climate? Here are three tips for getting started.

1. Seek out peers who complement your portfolio

To put it in business terms, what you want to do is collaborate with peers who will bolster your strengths and be able to shore up your weaknesses. If you are looking to invest time in an overseas market, someone familiar with that market will be far more likely to understand your intended customer/client base.

In any environment, it can be a natural inclination to gravitate toward peers with whom you have the most in common (native language, cultural values, backgrounds, etc.). Instead, do what you can to overcome this temptation. 

Not only will expanding your horizons give you improved viability in today’s diverse economy, you will learn so much more. They say at least half of what you gain as an MBA at top business schools is from your peers, so make sure you find peers that will help you learn as much as you can.

One way to ensure you do this is to check out extracurricular programming on campus. Many clubs have culturally related themes. Keep abreast of their schedules and attend relevant workshops. You may find that you connect with peers who can offer inroads into a particular part of the world that you otherwise wouldn’t know to investigate.

2. Look for internationally-aware professors

International professors at top business schools can offer guidance that others cannot. In a Huffington Post article, John T Delaney, former dean of the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business and the College of Business Administration at the University of Pittsburgh, wrote, “Professors with strong global awareness are better equipped to help students apply lessons within an international context and to develop international content and perspective within their courses.”

Professors with this kind of experience of the diversity in business intelligently discuss how approaches vary across cultures and have insights into what it is like working on a global level. Let these professors lead you. They may also hold the keys to internships and careers abroad that will change your life.

3. Celebrate your own diversity

Top business schools like Harvard Business School and Yale SOM crow about their diverse student bodies, and you better believe this isn’t just because it’s politically correct – it’s because they know what makes good business. Take time to invest in your own cultural heritage by joining a group on campus or participating in an event that celebrates that culture. Not only will this allow you to deepen your roots with like-minded peers, it presents you as someone with a considerable understanding of a specific culture, which is attractive to others looking to expand on their own MBA diversity and partner with people who know about a particular economic base (those who are smart enough to engage in the kind of connections that I outline in no. 1 on this list will seek you out).

And it might be to your advantage to demonstrate your commitment to diversity in business school early. University of California, Berkeley Haas, for example, has a scholarship for students that promote diversity.

There is no question that the business world is getting more expansive – however the cultural divides are no less complex than they have ever been. That means it is imperative that the modern business person develop a set of references that can be applied internationally as well as the ability to interact with those from different backgrounds and cultural experiences. It’s a small world after all, so make sure you have the background MBA diversity and agility to navigate from one continent to the other and allow your business to grow along the way.

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Ryan Hickey is the managing editor of Peterson's & EssayEdge and is an expert in many aspects of college, graduate, and professional admissions. A graduate of Yale University, Ryan has worked in various admissions capacities for nearly a decade, including writing test-prep material for the SAT, AP exams, and TOEFL, editing essays and personal statements, and consulting directly with applicants.