Why Diversity Matters for Stanford Graduate School of Business | TopMBA.com

Why Diversity Matters for Stanford Graduate School of Business

By Niamh O

Updated March 19, 2021 Updated March 19, 2021

Sarah Soule, Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs (and the first senior associate dean to have explicit responsibility for overseeing DEI) said: “We have a responsibility to play an active role in driving change. Our many small wins and the events of 2020 have awakened us and reignited our commitment to actions we can all take to make positive change at the GSB and beyond.”

Although we’re seeing more initiatives in the business world and business schools to ensure more priority is placed on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), there’s still a lot to be done.

Stanford Graduate School of Business, however, is committed to make DEI central to its mission to “develop innovative, principled, and insightful leaders.”

Stanford’s Annual Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Report 2020 report takes a closer look at how the business school hopes to achieve this.

Sarah Soule, Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs (and the first senior associate dean to have explicit responsibility for overseeing DEI) spoke with TopMBA about Stanford GSB’s big ideas for the future of DEI in the community.

Sarah Soule Stanford GSB DEI credit Nancy Rothstein

Soule (pictured) says Stanford GSB is committed to developing leaders of tomorrow who understand that listening to, and supporting, diverse voices is critical to achieving excellence.

She said: “Diverse teams offer multiple perspectives, leading to better decision-making and enabling better business performance. It is through advancing racial equity that Stanford GSB community members will help collectively fulfill our school’s aspiration to change the world."

2020: The year of awakening

Soule notes that from early on in the COVID-19 pandemic the inequities of society became more prevalent – with older adults, people of color, and the poor suffering at much higher rates than any other groups.

The wave of Black Lives Matter protests following the killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor were global outcries for racial justice and an end to systemic racism.

Soule said: “Those calls brought us on a journey led by our Black students and alumni, and their allies. This is a journey of learning how we can do better — not just on our broader diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) goals, but by and for the Black community.

“We have a responsibility to play an active role in driving change. Our many small wins and the events of 2020 have awakened us and reignited our commitment to actions we can all take to make positive change at the GSB and beyond.”

Making DEI a priority

There’s still a lot to do across industry, functions, businesses and organizations to ensure DEI gets the backing it needs to obtain an equal world.

Soule says GSB is committed to making positive change in the diversity, equity, and inclusion of the community, teaching, and research now and in the future – taking action to dismantle systemic racism.

She said: “One of the key pillars of our Action Plan for Racial Equity is ‘Holding Ourselves Accountable.’

“We have created the Diversity Equity and Inclusion Council - consisting of faculty, staff, and students - to sustain momentum on our broad DEI goals across every area of Stanford GSB, and ensure that we achieve our goals around Black representation and inclusion.”

Building on DEI from the 2019 report

Soule says the business school is proud of the accomplishments achieved which can be seen in the 2020 DEI Report, but she says some specifics are worth noting too, like the Progress on DEI Goals.

Stanford GSB continues to see more diversity on campus, one example being the MBA Class of 2022 which is 47 percent women, 35 percent international. Additionally, 47 percent of US citizens and permanent residents at the school are students of color.

Stanford is also offering more learning opportunities on topics related to DEI. Soule said: “We created the Anti-Racism and Allyship Journey, as well as the Leadership for Society: Race and Power speaker series and podcast, and we are currently developing an Executive Program for Black leaders that will launch in the summer.”

Soule is also pleased that the business school continues to add ways to promote an inclusive community. Students, in partnership with the MBA and PhD programs, initiated three new student groups: GSB First Generation & Low-Income Club; the Native Business Student Association (NBSA), and the Doctoral Association of Black Business Students (DABBS) to engage and support students, and created “GSBelonging.”

Staff experiences with DEI were also increased through workshops (diversity models, bias training, “Fostering Inclusion in Everyday Moments”), spaces for conversations and reflections (“Brave Spaces” and “Listening Session”), and a campus-wide session co-hosted with the VMware Women’s Leadership Innovation Lab on valuing diversity and inclusion during the pandemic.

Student participation

Soule says GSB students are involved in all aspects of DEI initiatives. Student representatives on the DEI Council inform GSB faculty on student perspectives on the pressing issues – and the reps also work with Soule to design the DEI learning journey all GSB students will experience.

She said: “Students help our DEI efforts by making suggestions for new case studies, and in some cases writing those new case studies themselves. Many of our students have worked in DEI roles before coming to the GSB, so they are helpful to us as we think about our next steps.”

Making the curriculum more diverse

There are a number of facilities at GSB offering materials and amenities to help GSB build its community, understanding, and knowledge for DEI – setting the business school up for the future.

Soule said: “Many classes and programs have brought in new curriculum elements focused on topics of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

“The Global Management Immersion Experience (GMIX) expanded its curriculum to examine a broad range of international competencies, such as identifying and addressing bias and employing tools to build inclusive teams.” Similarly, GSB created two workshops for PhD students to help make them more effective professors and leaders in diverse university environments.

Soule added: “Our Center for Entrepreneurial Studies (CES) continued to enhance diversity in the classroom experience and co-curricular programs, and to build thought leadership about entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds in the US.

“Lecturer Fern Mandelbaum (MBA ‘88) provides students with opportunities to interact with entrepreneurs and investors with varied experiences and from diverse backgrounds, while our flagship Startup Garage course is taught by a team of 15, of which 43 per cent were women in 2020.”

Other noteworthy DEI projects include the Entrepreneurial Summer Program – an internship where students work at an early-stage startup company – which had 60 students, with 67 percent women; Stanford Venture Studio, a co-curricular resource for grad students evaluating new venture ideas, was utilized by 436 students in FY20 — 36 percent being female.

Soule said: “Our Center for Social Innovation (CSI) continued to engage students motivated to work on social equity and justice issues.

“In the past academic year, 91 percent of the MBA/MSx student body (94 percent of women and 89 percent of men) worked to increase their understanding of social issues, build their skills to be effective agents of change, and/or take steps toward real-world action.

“Nine of the 21 Social Innovation (SIF) Fellows are working to dismantle the legacy of racism or address inequalities laid bare by the COVID-19 crisis. The CSI team also focused on increasing the representation of people of color in the network of investors, mentors, and advisors who help shape the student experience.

“Finally, Stanford LEAD, our flagship online business program, created an Equity Knowledge Library on Workplace of anti-racist educational tools, including reading, viewing, and listening lists, as well as a dedicated page including upcoming trainings sessions and webinars.”

This article was originally published in March 2021 .

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Written by

Niamh is Deputy Head of Content at QS (TopMBA.com; topuniversities.com), creating and editing content for an international student audience. Having gained her journalism qualification at the Press Association, London and since written for different international publications, she's now enjoying telling the stories of students, alumni, faculty, entrepreneurs and organizations from across the globe.  

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