U.S. business school holds itself to account on racial equality

Following an important year of reckoning for racial equity, Stanford GSB prioritises driving further DEI progress in 2021

Stanford Graduate School of Business (GSB) has pledged to prioritise its plans to drive racial equity across the school in 2021, starting with a review of what took place in the past.

As part of its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) Stanford GSB has released its second annual Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Report, in a bid to share progress and learnings, and hold itself accountable for driving change.

“This has been a year of awakening,” said Sarah A. Soule, senior associate dean of academic affairs and the 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.

“We have a responsibility — to the members of our community and our society — to play an active role in driving change. Our many small wins and the events of 2020 have awakened us and reignited our commitment to actions we can all take to make positive change at the GSB and beyond.”

Reaffirmed commitment

Last year, Stanford GSB reaffirmed its commitment to DEI by leveraging the efforts of its community members to develop the school’s first annual Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Report

Since then, the school has continued to gather data and hold many listening sessions with members of its community focused on its DEI and racial equity efforts so that it can report on progress toward the five goals outlined in the first report:

  • Increase the diversity of our Stanford GSB community
  • Create an inclusive classroom and learning experience
  • Create an inclusive and welcoming campus community
  • Empower and support communities underrepresented in our efforts to date
  • Support new research efforts

Efforts toward the key goals include: increasing the gender diversity of the tenure-line faculty by hiring seven women and seven men; holding the first annual virtual Diversity in Leadership conference, which resulted in 1,500+ attendees participating in 23 events hosted by faculty, students, and the MBA Admissions Office over five days.

Stanford GSB also launched Stanford Rebuild, a free innovation sprint that had 6,000 registrants from 125 countries, with 43% of participants identifying as women. It hosted a three-session “Brave Spaces” listening tour with alumni that created a safe space for conversations about anti-racism. It created a research guide that includes resources for studying diversity in organisations and the workplace. 


Racial equity

Part of Stanford GSB’s commitment to driving change toward dismantling systemic racism and addressing racial inequities in society and the school involved the launch of the Action Plan for Racial Equity (APRE), which builds on its diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts.

The Plan also focuses on actions in four areas: increasing representation, building a culture of inclusion, and belonging, making positive change beyond Stanford GSB, and the school holding itself accountable.

“Our focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion is grounded in our commitment to excellence,” said Jonathan Levin, the Philip H. Knight Professor and Dean of Stanford GSB.

“In order to be a leader, both at an individual and organisational level, we need to be committed to listening to, learning from, and leading diverse teams. This year has brought a renewed sense of urgency to our work, and I’m confident that we can make meaningful progress.”

Increasing representation

Stanford GSB continues to increase its recruitment of Black MBA, MSx, and PhD students and its newly expanded MBA Class profile provides data on multi-identity reporting. It shows the MBA Class of 2022 has its largest proportion of U.S. students of colour at 37% of the entire class. 

Also, the school launched the BOLD Fellowship (Building Opportunities for Leadership Diversity). The fund aims to help close intergenerational wealth gaps among admits, often experienced by Black and other minority groups, and increase the diversity of perspectives in the student body. The first BOLD Fellows will be awarded with the Class of 2023 Round 1 admissions.

Building a culture of inclusion and belonging 

To further build racial equity as well as a culture where all community members feel welcome, Stanford GSB developed a workshop for faculty and lecturers: Managing Sensitive Topics in the Classroom.

This year, the workshop focused specifically on race and ethnicity and how to begin to have conversations about race. The school also recently announced Allison Rouse as the new Director of Diverse Alumni Communities; the new role aims to increase and deepen engagement with a diverse alumni community.

The first Stanford GSB Rising Scholars Conference took place this year for underrepresented minority PhD students and postdoctoral scholars. The inaugural event, which drew 500+ PhD students, postdoctoral scholars, and faculty members, provided a forum for individuals from 30 institutions to present their work to faculty and conference attendees.

Making positive change beyond Stanford GSB

The school recently named the three co-chairs of the Alumni Racial Equity Initiative Task Force. They will resource the Stanford GSB Racial Equity Initiative which aims to increase representation, strengthen leadership, and drive economic empowerment. 

A new course, Leadership for Society: Race and Power, was introduced this academic year and will continue to be offered in the winter quarter. The nine-week webinar series, led by Senior Associate Dean Brian Lowery, is free and open to the public; more than 4,000 people registered to attend the fall sessions. A new podcast series was created based on the course.

Several new DEI-focused Executive Education offerings also launched this year, including Catalyst Diversity and Inclusion for Strategic Impact and the on-demand online course Leverage D&I for Organizational Excellence.

There was also the Anti-Racism and Allyship 7 Day Journey launched in October 2020. The free online learning resource is self-paced, available to the public to help individuals learn more about the downstream effects of unconscious bias and how to be an ally against it.

The Center for Social Innovation created the Racial Equity Fund to aid students who are interested in participating in the community response to racial injustice and systemic racism. These small community leadership grants empower students to bring their ideas to fruition successfully.

Holding itself accountable

Stanford GSB has launched a new DEI Council, made up of a select number of students, staff, and faculty to play a critical role in advancing its work to empower Stanford GSB to be more inclusive, equitable, and diverse in service of its mission. 

The school plans to evaluate the inaugural work of the DEI Council and the Alumni Racial Equity Initiative Task Force and continue to publish an annual report to provide transparency into its efforts around diversity, equity, and inclusion. It will also work with Stanford University to update and improve the IDEAL Dashboard

Said Professor Levin: “The goals and priorities established in both the 2020 DEI Report and the Action Plan for Racial Equity will require collective efforts and actions across our school and consistently applying a DEI lens, which means that we consider diversity, equity, and inclusion in all of the work that we do.

“We continue to be grateful for, and inspired by, the energy of the Stanford GSB community to help us make long-lasting and meaningful change.”

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