B-schools Seek to Shrink the Minority Faculty Gap

Last week, Businessweek’s Francesca Di Meglio reported that a mere 3.5 percent of b-school faculty in the U.S. is made up of minority groups such as African Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans.  This number comes from research by the PhD Project, an organization focused on increasing diversity in corporate America by placing more minority professors in the b-school classroom.

The PhD Project notes that the numbers are somewhat improved when Asian faculty is included – the 3.5 percent number refers to “underrepresented” minority groups. When including Asian faculty, the number jumps to over 20 percent at highly ranked programs including the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business and the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business.

Also, minority faculty has grown steadily since the PhD Project was launched in 1994:  That year, the number of underrepresented minority faculty was 294. In 2010, the number had grown to 1,061.

Still, the lack of minority faculty has many repercussions for business schools, such as an inability to attract minority students, which in turn disappoints corporate recruiters looking to the programs for minority talent. Di Meglio spoke with Sachin Gupta, an associate dean at Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management, who insisted that b-schools are eager to hire minority faculty, but cannot meet the demand, given the small number of minority PhDs entering the field.

“The availability of well-trained, credentialed [underrepresented minority] faculty has grown over the years but remains small. We’re competing with schools for a small number of faculty,” says Gupta.

Di Meglio also discusses possible solutions for increasing minority instructors with several b-school faculty and administrators, who propose the following ideas:

  • Educate minority students about their career options in business programs and on the Ph.D. track, which will lead to future b-school hires.
  • Provide mentoring and networking opportunities for new staff, and support university-wide organizations for minority and underrepresented faculty.
  • Encourage tenured minority faculty to move into administration, which will encourage minority candidates to apply.

Of course, this isn’t a simple problem of numbers. Hiring decisions must be holistic and based on a variety of factors to remain fair. As John Matsusaka, vice-dean for faculty and academic affairs at the Marshall School of Business states in the article, “I don’t think we’ll ever be in a position where we’d hire just to improve stats.”

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