Minority B-School Faculty Growing—Slowly

American business schools, much like American businesses, have some catching up to do when it comes to minority hiring.

Stymied by a lack of minorities in the PhD pipeline and growing competition for minority faculty, progress in hiring African American, Hispanic American, and Native American faculty at U.S. B-schools has been slow. Bernard J. Milano, president of the PhD Project, an organization based in Montvale, N.J., that aims to increase the diversity of corporate America by increasing the diversity of business school faculty, says just 3.5 percent of B-school faculty and administrators come from such underrepresented minority groups. "When you think about the changing demographics of this country," Milano says, "that's tragic."

Since 1994, when the PhD Project launched, the number of underrepresented minorities—excluding Asian Americans—at U.S. business schools has more than tripled, from 294 to 1,061 in 2010. The number of underrepresented minority doctoral students grew from fewer than 175 to 385 over the same period, according to the PhD Project.

For B-schools, the lack of minorities among the faculty is a real problem, making it difficult to recruit minority students and to satisfy corporate recruiters seeking minority MBA talent."We like to be reflective of the world we live in," says Sachin Gupta, associate dean for academic affairs and professor of marketing at Cornell University's Johnson Graduate School of Management (Johnson Full-Time MBA Profile). "We want the community here to reflect diversity in the real world. This is important because it's what constituents—from students to recruiters—want."

Asians Well-Represented

At many schools, minority representation in the faculty ranks appears far more robust when all minorities, including Asians, are considered. For example, at the University of Southern California's Marshall School of Business (Marshall Full-Time MBA Profile), 27 percent of the 222 faculty members are minorities.Minorities represent 24 percent of the 96 faculty members at the Johnson School and 22 percent of 187 faculty members at the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business (Ross Full-Time MBA Profile), according to data supplied by the schools. However, underrepresented minorities, excluding Asians, account for just 2.7 percent of the faculty at Marshall, 3.1 percent at Johnson, and 3.7 percent at Ross.

The greatest challenge for business schools, says Gupta, is the small supply of minorities with PhDs to hire, when the demand among the 1,600 business schools in the U.S. is so great. "The availability of well-trained, credentialed [underrepresented minority] faculty has grown over the years but remains small," says Gupta. "We're competing with schools for a small number of faculty."

Most top business schools have asked faculty search committees to broaden their searches, and many of them turn to organizations such as the PhD Project for help in finding qualified minority candidates for openings. At the Johnson School, search committees sometimes get extra money to allow them to broaden the search for minority candidates. Still, business schools say hiring decisions aren't made based on race, creed, ethnicity, or gender alone. "I don't think we'll ever be in a position where we'd hire just to improve stats," says John Matsusaka, vice-dean for faculty and academic affairs at Marshall. "We use the numbers, but we won't be driven by the numbers."

Academia as Career Option

One reason the minority PhD pipeline is as dry as it is: Undergraduates are not being shown the benefits of pursuing a business doctorate and a career in academia, says Jerry Strawser, dean at Texas A&M's Mays Business School (Mays Full-Time MBA Profile), where six of the 41 minority faculty, out of 186 total, come from underrepresented groups. Milano says the case can be made persuasively with information on work-life balance and salaries enjoyed by business faculty.

Opening up the minds of minorities to the possibilities of business degrees and showing them that the business world welcomes them are steps in the right direction, says Milano. "How many minorities have relatives who are corporate executives? What is their personal experience with business?" he asks. "They wonder, 'How do I make my mark in a world dominated by white people?' "

Another key to making progress, say business school administrators, is providing mentoring and networking opportunities for all faculty. Strawser suggests supporting faculty organizations for minorities and other underrepresented groups that bring together professors from the wider university and not just the business school.

Having support in place for minority faculty members is also necessary to retain them once a school has hired them. Finding mentors is especially important for minority faculty, who face specific challenges, says Nandini Rajagopalan, a chair in strategic entrepreneurship at Marshall. Many of them are overwhelmed by questions from minority students, who often feel a kinship with minority faculty, and they may feel like outsiders if there are few professors like them. Mainly, says Rajagopalan, they must get help in securing tenure, which requires hard work and a cultivation of talent on the part of the school, regardless of whether one is part of a minority group.

Few Hold Top Deanships

Minorities, like any other group, want proof they will be able to influence the institutions at which they work. With few underrepresented minorities holding deanships at top business schools—New York University's Stern School of Business (Stern Full-Time MBA Profile) is the only one among Bloomberg Businessweek's top 30 U.S.programs—that is a challenge, says Milano. The PhD Project recently launched the Achieving Higher Education Administration Diversity (AHEAD) program, which is intended to encourage tenured minority faculty to think about moving into administration.

In the meantime, some business schools, such as Marshall, see diversity as including the recruitment of professors from other nations and ethnic groups, as well as underrepresented minorities in the U.S., says Rajagopalan. With the U.S. facing more competition from other parts of the world, including the emerging economic powers of China and India, business schools must step up their efforts to diversify their communities and especially their faculty, she adds.

"U.S. universities have no choice but to make diversity a part of their strategy," says Rajagopalan. "It's crucial to their survival."

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