A Consortium member school, Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley has made clear its commitment to enhancing diversity in business education and leadership. It has worked hard to be a welcoming place for all students, including those from underrepresented minority groups, as well as bring to campus attractive, big-name companies that share Haas’ commitment to diversity.
But, several years ago, it became apparent that an internal effort to advance diversity and inclusion was not enough.
At a town hall meeting of full-time MBA students, Jennifer Bridge, senior director of external engagement, MBA career management, says she was taken back when a student stood up during a discussion about diversity and inclusion to voice a concern. “[He] said, ‘I just went through consulting interviews, and I felt like there was bias in the process. I felt discriminated against — and actually, there are a few of us who felt that way,’” Bridge says.
In charge of overseeing all of Haas’ employer relationships, Bridge was shocked. “It was a moment for me where I was like, ‘Not under my watch,’” she says. “I was like, ‘Well, that’s not going to continue to happen because that’s not the way we do business; that’s not who we are as a school.’”
At the same time, Haas was brainstorming new ways to attract more minority MBA students to its campus and make sure they felt included. To address both challenges, Bridge and her team decided to develop an employer relations strategy around diversity, equity and inclusion focused on education.
“We felt we could be an educational partner,” says Bridge, “providing leadership and content to employers about how to improve their pipelines, how to think about recruiting, how to think about inclusion and create a safe space for them [and their employees] to come together to share best practices and learn about it.”
Bridge and her team have two vehicles through which they execute this strategy as they work to educate employers and improve the recruiting process. The first is quarterly communication with employers through Haas’ Employer Newsletter. Through this resource, the school shares helpful and informative articles with companies on topics such as how to remove bias from the hiring process, for example, that are very “prescriptive,” says Bridge.
“It could be a podcast that someone on the team has recently listened to that’s related to hiring practices or inclusion practices. We’re always looking for what we believe is really tangible, actionable, relevant content and thought leadership to share with employers,” she says. According to Bridge, Haas is the only business school talking to recruiters in this way.
The second way in which Bridge and her team deliver on their employer relations strategy is through Haas’ annual Employer Roundtable event, which takes place every April. Previously meant to serve as an annual update and thank you to employers, the event took a different form beginning three years ago. “It’s an opportunity for employers to hear from practitioners, faculty and students about their experiences to help improve their own diversity and inclusion strategies,” says Bridge.
The Employer Roundtable features a combination of students, faculty, staff and recruiters and is another way to provide actionable information and insight to help ensure more equitable recruiting and hiring processes.
“We’ve brought in faculty to share research they’ve been doing in this space. We’ve brought in admissions to explain what GMAT data exists out there around underrepresented minority recruiting and some of the challenges,” says Bridge. “We’ve also brought in business leaders who’ve changed their hiring practices to eliminate bias and have shared, very prescriptively, how they have scrubbed their entire hiring process to have it be as fair and inclusive as possible.”
The event has also included student panels where MBAs have shared their personal experiences engaging with employers — “their positive and challenging experiences and what’s working well,” Bridge notes.
The student panel has been particularly helpful for companies seeking insight into what diverse MBAs are looking for in an employer. Recruiters, Bridge says, are able to ask very specific questions of students. “The students are looking for transparency in data,” she explains. “So, many times, they want to know, ‘What do your numbers look like? How easily accessible are they to the person I’m talking to? How does leadership talk about diversity, equity and inclusion — do they walk the walk?’ And, ‘What kind of support groups and mentorship do you have?’”
Bridge emphasizes among employers the importance of being able to demonstrate to students their commitment to diversity and inclusion. Part of this work involves making sure all company representatives are informed and on the same page with regard to the company’s overall diversity efforts and objectives.
“[It involves] working with the employers to make sure that they have eyes wide open around the types of concerns our students are expressing, as well as making sure that the people they send to campus, the people our students are engaging with, are knowledgeable,” Bridge says. “Something we tell employers is, ‘When you come on campus, you better be prepared to talk about what kinds of work you’re doing around inclusion because our students are going to ask.’”
She and her team have hosted other events as well, designed to benefit both students and employers. Following several requests by employers for access to diverse student groups, they decided to host a networking event specifically for full-time underrepresented minority MBAs and companies expressly interested in growing the diversity of their workforce.
“It was one of the most well received events we’ve ever had, and it filled up faster than any employer event we’ve ever had. The student turnout was fantastic, and the students said it was one of the best networking events they’ve ever been to,” says Bridge. “Additionally, we created an underrepresented minority résumé book that we can provide employers.”
Students and employers alike have experienced the positive difference made by Haas’ efforts and have been appreciative, Bridge says. What began as a reaction to a specific student’s concern has now become just an extension of the school’s commitment to ensuring an equitable recruiting process for all.
“It’s our opportunity to take a stand and really show our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion,” says Bridge, “and to say, ‘You know what, this is part of our culture; this is important to us, and we think it should be important to you.’”