Diversity: Everybody’s Business

Diversity: Everybody’s Business

BY LIN YANG – SECTION EDITOR

Lin Yang

Lin Yang

Those who watch Mad Men will remember a scene from Season 3, where Pete Campbell, an advertising executive, corners an unsuspecting African American elevator operator to ask him why he purchased his RCA-brand television. In the 1960s, Black men and women were all but banned from the ranks of management, and those institutional barriers forced awkward confrontations, like that of Pete Campbell’s, for the sake of “market research.” Diversity at Anderson is experiencing a similarly awkward phase. A workshop at orientation and a couple of Organizational Behavior classes barely scratch the surface of the issue. Most students know discrimination is bad, but do not know what it means to celebrate and harness diversity. Often, the lesson is about avoiding lawsuits, rather than building an environment that allows those of a different race, gender, or sexual orientation to thrive.

This is precisely why Anderson students ought to participate in identity clubs and the events they sponsor. Anderson’s identity clubs, which include Out@Anderson, Latin American Business Association, and Asian Management Students Association, to name a few, play a critical role in building a community that is inclusive to all. These clubs host events that allow students to experience a different perspective. They educate and share everything from local business knowledge to cultural nuances. They help us understand those who are different from us. And they show us how to have a whole new level of fun. Not only is it enriching to participate, but it makes business sense. The fact is, our world is changing. There are now more women than men who go to college, which means the spending power of women will rise. China will become the world’s largest economy by the end of this year. Even conservative politicians, such as those in Arizona, bow to the economic power of the LGBT community. “You need people with cultural competency in these areas, who have a facility with diversity, and understand whatever market they’re trying to enter,” said Kim Freeman, the assistant dean for diversity initiatives. Understanding these markets starts now, and involves not only clubbing in Japan, but getting to know diverse communities right here in Los Angeles. However, the reality is, diversity is usually not the first priority for many business school students. Perhaps many of us want to believe that business is inherently meritocratic and market driven. Or maybe due to the fact that board rooms do not reflect the racial and gender makeup of our society, diversity’s importance is not emphasized. Many identity clubs have trouble attracting even members of their own group to join. For instance, the 2015 full-time MBA class has 17 students who checked the Latino box on their applications, but only five joined the club, according to Mayra Munguia-Herrera, the president of the Latino Management Students Association. “Those who go into businesstend not to be vocal,” said Munguia-Herrera. “They are more internally focused on doing what they need to do to accomplish their professional goals, but not so much their community goals.” This problem has been compounded from the admissions side, where it has been an uphill battle to find enough qualified minority and women candidates to apply. Dean Judy Olian, speaking at the White House in April, called it “a major, national performance issue” that women are still underutilized and underappreciated in the US professional workforce. Assistant Dean of Admissions Alex Lawrence, in a February blog post, lamented that “the pipeline is limited” for African Americans and Latinos on the MBA track. Many were the first in their families to go to college, and have no idea that an MBA is even an option, nor what careers they lead to.

So far, the push for embracing diversity through identity clubs at Anderson has been done in silos. Recently, ASA added the VP of Diversity and Inclusion position to try to tie all these efforts together. “There are so many individual efforts going on, including Parker, Women’s Business Connection, and Admissions,” said Jessica Kimball, who current serves in the diversity VP role. “But from the student side, there hasn’t been one cohesive effort to move all of this together.” That will change next year. Even though many clubs are small, they are striving to make a big impact in 2014-15, banding together to host a “Diversity Series,” a succession of events aimed at getting discussions of race, gender, and sexual orientation out in the open. These clubs will also work closely with both the Admissions Office and Parker CMC to build a pipeline of students from underrepresented groups coming in, and graduates going out.

The hope is that all students at Anderson will support this effort by either joining clubs, participating actively in these events, or helping the administration with its diversity recruitment and career initiatives. If all of us give diversity a second look, we will be closer to our classmates, and ready to take on a diverse and changing world.

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