Slowly, Top B-Schools Gain in Diversity

The Toigo Foundation's Nancy Sims talks about why MBA programs have not made bigger strides in minority recruitment"and what they can do about it

Business schools have been actively recruiting minorities for years. Many have been teaming up with organizations to educate young people in underrepresented groups about what they can get out of an MBA. Have these efforts worked? The answer is: sort of. In the last 10 years, top business schools have increased the number of enrolled minority students, but the gains have been modest and not every school improved, according to a Bloomberg Businessweek analysis of the schools' self-reported enrollment data.

The analysis showed that 18 of the top 30 U.S. B-schools in Bloomberg Businessweek's 2010 ranking of full-time MBA programs have increased the number of underrepresented minorities (excluding Asian Americans) on campus, raising the average from 9.3 percent in 2000 to 13.4 percent in 2010.Six schools fared worse, one's minority enrollment was flat, and five programs did not provide sufficient information regarding one or both years to determine if they had gotten better or worse.The Johnson Graduate School of Management (Johnson Full-Time MBA Profile) at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., showed the most dramatic increase, having increased its enrollment of underrepresented minorities from 5 percent in 2000 to 21 percent in 2010.

Still, more must be done to improve representation at graduate business schools, says Nancy Sims, president of the Robert Toigo Foundation, a nonprofit group founded in 1989 to help increase diversity in the finance industry. As part of the organization's mission, Toigo educates minority members about the merits of getting an MBA and provides financial support for minority candidates who qualify, says Sims.

"[The research] is an important and ongoing reminder of the need and imperative of continuing to promote diversity," she says. "For the young people who have gone through these schools as Toigo fellows, they are all phenomenally successful. The real key here is giving them the chance to develop their talents with an academic brand."

Almost 1,000 young men and women have participated in Toigo and are still working in finance across all the field's sectors, from investment banking to real estate and private equity, says Sims, who adds that a dozen or more have significant influence over the placement of capital within the U.S. Sims recently spoke with Bloomberg Businessweek reporter Francesca Di Meglio about the Toigo Foundation and how to motivate minorities to sign up for business school and pursue careers in finance. Here are edited excerpts of their conversation:

What goals are you setting for 2011 and beyond?

Pre-MBAs are wondering what opportunities still exist in finance and if it is the right time to step out of [jobs] and into school. Organizations such as Toigo cannot do enough to put ourselves in front of that prospective talent pool. We are contemplating how we can expand some of the outreach we've been doing over the last few years"attendance at conferences, hosting webinars, innovative programs"to find ways to position ourselves better in the media so that people are aware that we exist and also of the merits of the MBA and the talents and successes of our alumni. Our efforts begin with a population that we call pre-MBA, two or three years away from starting an MBA program. I also think more energies can be spent at the undergraduate level, when more of these ideas are taking shape. We could educate them so they can make informed decisions about internships and courses they should be taking to pursue a career in finance...

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