Stanford GSB Makes Diversity a Priority

Stanford GSB Makes Diversity a Priority main image

Stanford Graduate School of Business recently released its first Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) report. To ensure the institution is fair and inclusive to underrepresented minorities on campus, the DEI is one of many steps designed to help Stanford GSB recognize areas of potential improvement and successes.

“Our ultimate goal is to hold ourselves accountable, so that we can develop principled, effective, and inclusive leaders at Stanford GSB and beyond,” according to the DEI.

Calls for transparency and action to widen the net of people studying and practicing business demonstrates a bigger trend at schools, particularly in the US, where class makeup at top MBA programs remained largely homogenous for years. As a result, the business pipeline filled with MBA grads was largely dominated by white men. As educators and businesspeople began to recognize the benefits of a diverse workforce, the pressure increased to widen the net of applicants, enrolled students, and ultimately hires.

In the DEI, the school reports that among Fortune 500 CEOs, just 6.6 percent are women and less than 1 percent are African American. With this in mind, the GSB, often led by its students, has taken on a number of initiatives to address these issues. Here are a few of them:

IDEAL Dashboard

The IDEAL Dashboard is a university-wide effort that allows members of the community to track and assess diversity progress through data. For instance, Stanford GSB can see that 33 percent of its untenured faculty members are women; similarly, since 2012, 40 percent of tenure line hires were women, up from 20 percent in 2012.

If people can see the hard data, it helps them understand whether the class and staff at the university or an individual school properly reflects the real-world graduates will be living and working in. The MBA Class of 2021 has a total of 417 students and is broken down accordingly:

  • 43 percent International
  • 27 percent total US minorities
  • 47 percent women

GSB Pods

Students took the lead on this idea because they were concerned students seemed to naturally break off into homogenous groups. To offset this, they put groups of eight students into diverse, mandatory meeting groups to get acquainted. The idea is to build a community and get people out of their comfort zones when meeting and working with others, says Madisen Obiedo, a second-year MBA student, who is also the vice president of Diversity for the Hispanic Business Student Association and a Student Association Diversity committee member.

Ultimately, the goal of the Pods is to encourage conversations about identity and equity. Obiedo says, “The future leadership and teams will be more diverse. The younger generation places a higher premium on issues related to DEI.”


An afternoon event session features DEI training to provide people with the language to engage in topics safely, as well as learning how to take action related to identity and diversity issues.

From a student perspective, says Obiedo, progress has already been made. In her experience, the types of events and the school’s efforts have changed since her first year in the MBA, with the school now weaving ideas associated with diversity into everything it does.

“There’s a real appetite to talk about these issues,” she adds.

In general, the school is more transparent and willing to act when it comes to both attracting and retaining students, faculty, and staff from a range of backgrounds.

“There’s a move to make things more inclusive,” says Obiedo. “Why would the color of someone’s skin [or other similar distinction] dictate where someone ends up?”

Obiedo’s Motivation

For Obiedo, this work is deeply personal. Growing up in Texas, she was the first woman in her family to go to college. Her father, who she describes as “my hero”, grew up impoverished as one of 12 children in central Texas. He couldn’t speak English in kindergarten but went on to become the only one of his siblings to graduate high school. It inspired him to see education as a privilege, says Obiedo. In addition, Obiedo’s grandmother never learned to read or write. Her family’s history has motivated her to fight for kids without access to education.

“I want to give back to them,” says Obiedo.

After her expected graduation in May 2020, Obiedo plans to go to Bain in the San Francisco office and will continue her efforts to widen the net, while also being an active alumna.

The school hired the first senior associate dean responsible for overseeing diversity, equity, and inclusion, and Stanford GSB will make the DEI an annual report to ensure efforts to increase diversity on campus remain at the forefront. There are conversations happening on campus, some of which Obiedo describes as a listening tour about these issues. The school is also taking action on things like increasing the number of case studies related to diversity.

“Stanford GSB was my top school choice because it puts such a human face on what it means to be a leader,” says Obiedo. “To be an effective leader, you have to be an empathetic leader. You have to lead with heart, mind, body, and soul.”

Francesca Di Meglio

Francesca Di Meglio has written about higher education for two decades. She covered business schools and all aspects of management education for what became Bloomberg Businessweek from May 2004 to December 2013. Di Meglio was the consultant editor for the book Admitted: An Interactive Workbook for Getting into a Top MBA Program (85 Broads Publishing, 2011), which was written by admissions consultant Betsy Massar. In addition, she is a family travel and parenting blogger at the Italian Mamma website

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