Femme-BAs: Purdue’s Krannert School of Management Promotes Diversity & Inclusion

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At Krannert, we believe it is essential to have a diverse classroom. That requires very intentional activities in terms of increasing the applicant pool and creating an environment where people of all walks of life and culture feel welcome and can thrive. You have to prioritize that effort.
Michelle Hadley, Associate Director of Recruitment at Purdue’s Krannert School of Management

The gender gap is stark in the world of business, where women make up nearly half of the workforce, but hold less than 5 percent of the top leadership roles. It’s also an enormous opportunity for growth. Companies that put diversity and inclusion as a priority have a higher earnings per share and a higher return on sales. A report by McKinsey, a consulting firm, estimated that $12 trillion could be added to global GDP over a ten-year period simply by advancing women’s equality. If businesses recognize the value of diversity and inclusion, shouldn’t an MBA program recognize that, too?

To fix the gender gap, experts say, an increased focus is needed on the early stages of the talent pipeline. So what are MBA programs doing to prioritize diversity and inclusion? So far, not enough: even though women outnumber men at all levels of education, MBA programs are still dominated by men. Even top-ranked business schools maintain abysmally uneven student and faculty demographics. That’s because traditional rankings for MBA programs take into consideration faculty publications, applicant test scores, and graduate job placements. But these metrics don’t tell the full story. A more forward-thinking ranking system would prioritize what the world’s top businesses do.

Spotlight on Purdue University’s Krannert School of Management

Purdue University’s Krannert School of Management ticks the traditional boxes for an MBA program without neglecting the tides of the future. In 2018, their Global Executive MBA program was rated third worldwide for gender balance by The Economist, who also ranked the program 11th for salary increases of alumni two years after graduation. The Wall Street Journal and Times Higher Education put Krannert in the global top ten for two-year MBA programs.

But Krannert also has some intangibles that don’t easily translate into ranking systems. Its small class sizes boost individual voices. A wide selection of different MBA programs, including one with a STEM-focus, allows students to tailor their education more specifically to their career goals. And when it comes to inclusion and diversity, Purdue is taking the expert analysis into account and putting focus on the early stages of the talent pipeline.

How Purdue’s Krannert School of Management Promotes Diversity and Inclusion

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“At Krannert, we believe it is essential to have a diverse classroom,” says Michelle Hadley, associate director of recruitment at Krannert. “That requires very intentional activities in terms of increasing the applicant pool and creating an environment where people of all walks of life and culture feel welcome and can thrive. You have to prioritize that effort.”

In the classroom, that diversity manifests in a number of ways: from a student’s gender, to their country of origin, to their educational background, to their industry experience. But the support of that diversity should start before school even begins.

Krannert’s recruitment team offers a personalized concierge service for potential students, where a dedicated recruiter is available to answer any possible questions. The recruiter can coach students on their admissions packet, connect them to on-campus and online resources, and offer introductions to other students, alumni, and faculty.

“In general, women who choose to pursue an MBA—and, more importantly, seek to lead organizations and break through the glass ceiling—may have to work harder for their efforts to be noticed,” Hadley says. “They often need to obtain advocates within the organization to help them excel in their careers.”

Those advocates are available at Krannert. Female faculty, staff, and alumni often act as mentors for female students throughout their time in the program, and the small class sizes allow for more personal connections between them. Meanwhile, the Men as Allies organization a Krannert educates both men and women on how bias manifests in organizations, and how it can be overcome.

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“At Krannert, it is easier for everyone to express themselves without hesitation,” says Nikita Atal, who earned her MBA from Krannert in 2017 and also served as president of the graduate student association. “The close-knit community of students, faculty and staff makes it an exceptionally friendly environment where everyone can chalk out their own path.”

In Atal’s experience, at first many women in her MBA program were hesitant to raise their hand or dive into situations without complete information. That could’ve led to fewer female leaders in class projects or the classroom itself, where extroverts could dominate. But while Krannert’s MBA program is designed to put students outside of their comfort zones, it doesn’t put them there alone.

Krannert’s Graduate Women in Business Club is a student-led organization that gives women opportunities to participate in, as well as organize and lead, corporate engagements, guest lectures, community service events, and alumni meetups. The Brock-Wilson Center for Women in Management at Krannert helps provide education and support for women in business as early as junior high, and it remains accessible throughout one’s business career. Partnerships with organizations like the Forte Foundation mean that these advocacy and mentorship initiatives can carry over into the business world and contribute to the industry’s wider ecosystem.

An important tenet of supporting diversity and inclusion is the recognition of intersectionality. To that end, Krannert supports not only organizations like the Dr. Cornell A. Bell Business Opportunity Program (BOP), but also the Krannert Hispanic Management Association, the Krannert Graduate Society of Black Managers, the Krannert Asian Business Association. But simply supporting these programs individually isn’t enough. They have to be given the tools to partner with each other and take on positions of leadership and authority within the business school as a whole.

“I have had the opportunity to meet many successful alumni in various capacities through these organizations,” Atal says. “I always assumed that management consulting was not a suitable industry for women. However, an amazing interaction with a successful female Krannert alum during a company info session motivated me to apply for management consulting, and skills developed during MBA coursework helped me get through the process.”

Atal is now a management consultant at A.T. Kearney, where she specializes in strategic sourcing and operations. In this role, she’s seen firsthand how a diverse set of customers can only be served best by a diverse set of employees.

“Prioritizing inclusion and diversity in an MBA program allows students to learn about the challenges faced by different groups in society,” Atal says. “It’s the right thing to do.”

Matt Zbrog
Matt Zbrog
Writer

Matt Zbrog is a writer and freelancer who has been living abroad since 2016. His nonfiction has been published by Euromaidan Press, Cirrus Gallery, and Our Thursday. Both his writing and his experience abroad are shaped by seeking out alternative lifestyles and counterculture movements, especially in developing nations. You can follow his travels through Eastern Europe and Central Asia on Instagram at @weirdviewmirror. He’s recently finished his second novel, and is in no hurry to publish it.

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