Wednesday, May 21, 2014 at 1am

Goizueta Business School Hires African-American Female Dean: MBA News

Goizueta Business School Hires African-American Female Dean: MBA News main image

In appointing Erika Hayes James as its new dean, Emory University’s Goizueta Business School will become the first elite business school in the US to have a female African-American dean at its helm.

Not only can this be seen as positive development in addressing the gender imbalance that persists among business school faculty, but it is also something of a landmark on the long path to attaining greater diversity in business education leadership.

The AACSB (Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business) holds that three business schools in the US do already have African-American women as deans, but none of these rank among the top business schools in the US according to international recruiters – Goizueta Business School’s appointment is the first.   

“It is not something I spent a lot of time contemplating, but I see why it is so significant. I want to make sure to live up to the expectations I have for myself and the expectations that everyone who cares about business education have for me for this role,” James, who holds a PhD in organizational psychology from the University of Michigan, told Fortune. She will take the reins at Goizueta Business School in July.

The gender imbalance at business school

The Atlanta-based Goizueta Business School says James’ gender, as well as her ethnicity, are just a happy coincidence as she possessed, “all of the qualities that we want for a leader,” according to the school’s provost.

However, diversity in business education and the gender imbalance at faculty-level are two of biggest challenges facing top business schools – particularly when it comes to leadership positions.

According to a 2014 AACSB report, the number of female deans at more than 500 responding business schools in the US stands at 21.6%. This number was even less for those schools responding outside of the US, at 19.2%.

James, who has moved to Goizueta Business School from the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business and also did a stint as a visiting professor at Harvard Business School, is more than aware of the problem. “It is an environment that I am familiar with, but we have a real opportunity to change. Having more women exposed to business and seeing business education as a viable career opportunity will certainly be a key driver that I have in this role. It will be part of my responsibility as a woman leading an elite business school,” she said in discussing business schools’ gender imbalance.

There is a consensus that having a female dean should encourage female enrollment in MBA programs and narrow the margins of an institution’s classroom gender imbalance. But thus far, schools with female deans have not seen a significant improvement in this respect. 

Based on the results of a different AACSB survey, it’s also possible to see the full extent of the lack of diversity in business education faculty from reporting business schools in the US. 14.8% are listed as ‘Asian or Pacific Islander’, 3.8% as ‘Black’ and just 2.3% regarded as ‘Hispanic’, leaving more than 70% of faculty as ‘White – non-Hispanic’.

There’s clearly a long way to go to see a significant change to faculty diversity in business education. But, The PhD Project, an organization that encourages minority groups (principally, African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans and indigenous Americans) to reach doctorate level and join the ranks of business education professors has at least seen progress since its establishment in 1994, with the number of minority professors rising from approximately 300 to just over 1200 in the 20 years since.

Tim is a writer with a background in consumer journalism and charity communications. He trained as a journalist in the UK and holds degrees in history (BA) and Latin American studies (MA).

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