Stanford GSB keeps lens on diversity, equity and inclusion

The Graduate School of Business has launched a number of initiatives in 2020 in an effort to help end systemic racism and create a culture of belonging on and off campus.
By: | January 8, 2021
Ira D. Hall, Stanford Class of ’66 and MBA ’76, who became the first African-American to be honored with the Graduate School of Business' most prestigious recognition, the Ernest C. Arbuckle Award. (Toni Bird/Stanford University)

Sarah Soule, Senior Associate Dean of Academic Affairs at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, called 2020 “a year of awakenings.”

Having already made a strong commitment to improving diversity, equity and inclusion, Stanford GSB more than doubled down its efforts after the George Floyd and Breonna Taylor killings occurred, the Black Lives Matter protests ensued, and the calls for racial justice echoed throughout the United States.

And yet, the question its leaders continually asked over the past year was: “How can we do better?”

Stanford’s Graduate School of Business responded with a one-of-a-kind mission to make change happen. Among the many initiatives launched this year, it forged an Action Plan for Racial Equity, which called for Stanford GSB to hold itself accountable in increasing minority representation across campus while building a culture of belonging.

“In order to be a leader, both at an individual and organizational level, we need to be committed to listening to, learning from, and leading diverse teams,” said Jonathan Levin, Philip H. Knight Professor and Dean of Stanford GSB. “This year has brought a renewed sense of urgency to our work, and I’m confident that we can make meaningful progress.”

Today, Stanford GSB released its second-annual report on diversity, equity and inclusion – showcasing how effective those initiatives have been and the many efforts being made to bridge those gaps while “fostering purposeful and principled leadership.”

Elena Zhukova/Stanford University

The action behind the plan

From its annual report last year, Stanford GSB outlined five goals around DEI, including: increasing diversity, creating more inclusive classrooms, building a welcoming campus, empowering underrepresented communities and backing new research.

So, what has it done to try to achieve them?

Stanford GSB, in aiming to increase the gender diversity of its student body, its faculty and guest speakers to its community, over the past year has:

  • Required all faculty and lecturers to attend a Managing Sensitive Topics in the Classroom seminar.
  • Made mandatory sessions on diversity, equity and inclusion for all of its PhD students.
  • Opened the application process for its IDEAL Fellows program that recognizes early scholars and announced the launch of a BOLD Fellows (Building Opportunities for Leadership Diversity) program, which hopes to close intergenerational wealth gaps among those who are admitted.
  • Hosted a five-day Diversity in Leadership Conference that featured more than 20 events and held a Rising Scholars Conference that allowed underrepresented minority PhD students and postdoctoral students to share their experiences and work.
  • Launched executive education course offerings, including Catalyst Diversity and Inclusion for Strategic Impact and Leverage D&I for Organizational Excellence.
  • Offered a 12-part virtual speaker series on the impact of COVID-19 on minority groups, as well as other topics including investing in Black entrepreneurs.
  • Created a research guide that includes “resources for studying diversity in organizations and the workplace.”

Soule and fellow professors Margaret Neale and Hannah Yanow also put together an Anti-Racism and Allyship 7 Day Journey that allows those who are interested a chance to explore and self-reflect on actions they can take to help tackle system racism.

“We have a responsibility – to the members of our community and our society – to play an active role in driving change,” said Soule, Morgridge Professor of Organizational Behavior. “Over the past several months, we’ve witnessed the inequities of COVID-19 and a wave of Black Lives Matter protests calling for an end to racial injustice and systemic racism. Our many small wins and the events of 2020 have reignited our commitment to actions we can all take to make positive change at the GSB and beyond.”

Change is happening, but work is not done

Stanford GSB admits reaching its goals won’t happen immediately, but says it is making strides, especially in its recruitment of Black MBA, MSx and PhD students. In an assessment of its MBA Class of 2022, it says it has the largest-ever proportion of students of color from the U.S. at 37%.

Maybe its most ambitious effort in identifying those trends among students, faculty and staff is its IDEAL Dashboard, which offers a comprehensive, transparent view of more than 10 years of data around diversity, equity and inclusion.

Among the other efforts happening to foster change: Its Center for Social Innovation has created a Racial Equity Fund to help students participate in the fight against systemic racism. Its newly formed Alumni Racial Equity Initiative Task Force is helping build representation, leadership, and empower underrepresented groups. And Stanford GSB has a Diverse Alumni Communities team working further with alumni.

Still, in order to make “long-lasting and meaningful change,” and despite all of its work and successes, Stanford GSB is pressing the need to continue its work moving forward in five areas noted in its report:

  • Regular communication
  • Data collection
  • Collaboration and coordination
  • Expansion of its expert network
  • And maybe most important “consistently applying a DEI lens, which means that we consider diversity, equity, and inclusion in all of the work that we do.”