Why Are African Americans So Underrepresented on Business School Faculties?

Dr. Grier

A new study by scholars at American University in Washington, D.C., and the University of San Francisco, finds that although students from underrepresented groups are increasing in business schools, the percentage of faculty from these groups remains stagnant. According to the study, underrepresented minority groups comprise approximately 28 percent of the student body at U.S. business schools but only 7.5 percent of the faculty. Blacks make up just 4.1 percent of the faculty.

While the “leaky pipeline” explains some of the shortfall in Black faculty at business schools as top students leave the academic track to take more lucrative opportunities in the corporate sector, the authors argue that “systematic bias implicit in the faculty search process is a significant reason for the limited progress on hiring diverse faculty.”

Dr. Poole

The authors used critical race theory as an analytic framework to examine the ways racial inequality is reproduced through specific practices in the business school search process. A qualitative methodology was used to investigate the experiences of underrepresented minority faculty who have served on business school search committees.

In interviews and focus groups, the authors found that while discussions on diversity are encouraged there is no mandate to do so. Many participants indicated that one reason the conversations about improving racial diversity might be limited is that related school-level policy is not made explicit or is not well defined. Their analysis showed the search committee chair often picks committee members and defines the search criteria. Given that there are few Black faculty in high-level posts at business schools, there will often not be a Black perspective in committee deliberations. Black faculty who are appointed to search committees often believe they are tokens or window dressing. The interviews also showed the search committees often focus on academic pedigree or publication record and do include a holistic approach which includes service record and teacher evaluations.

The authors of the study are Sonya A. Grier, a professor of marketing at American University and Sonja Martin Poole, an associate professor in the School of Management at the University of San Francisco.

The full study “Reproducing Inequity: The Role of Race in the Business School Faculty Search,” was published on the website of the Journal of Marketing Management. It may be accessed here.

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  1. Why is it a priority to increase the numbers of black faculty in the business schools of predominantly white universities? Is there reliable evidence that this would significantly improve outcomes for black business students? Can two or three black professors make a difference in a department of fifty or sixty Whites? Given the pressures on black faculty to “fit in” at predominantly white universities, would any benefit to black students be worth the misery imposed on struggling black faculty?

  2. African Americans continue to be inner represented in every program started since 1964 for their benefit because Black intellectuals and professionals refuse to say the word “Black”. By using words like “diversity”, “people of color”, etc every program that was intended to alleviate the position of Black people to right unique historic wrongs committed against them, and only them, for centuries has been rendered ineffective because non Blacks were included and eventually crowded out Blacks. Affirmative action is a classic case in point. No one can justify how White women who co-owned slaves could credibly claim to be discriminated like Blacks!! Hispanics is a language group!! Technically speaking, Spanish people were among the first slave owners in the Western Hemisphere. How did millions of Mexicans walk across the border and become eligible for affirmative action intended for descendants of slaves while Black intellectuals and politicians remain silent? Today, Hispanics and White women are the main beneficiaries of affirmative action even though ALL the negative connotation of the program is attributed to Black! Today, Asians, and ironically especially South Asians from India, who were not even in the country during the civil rights era, are at the forefront filing lawsuits claiming less qualified Blacks are being admitted into places like Harvard over them–even though many early buildings in Harvard were literally built by slaves or slaves were used as collateral for Southern benefactors who donated huge sums to Harvard. Instead of b***h sl*****g those people Black intellectuals continue with a Black and Brown fantasy that exist only in their minds. There is a program which set up specifically to address shortage of Black business school faculty called “The PhD Project” around 1994. I looked at the program the other day and saw a Palestinian student in the program, and White people who call themselves Indian (so called $5-dollar Indians) in the program. Also, Hispanics are in the program. As a result, prospective Black faculty are crowded out by the inclusion of non Black. Because Black people have been psychologically destroyed by racism, they seem to be only able to call out White racism when the issue is anti Black racism that comes from all non Black people. Do not include non Black people in programs that are intended to address the unique historic discrimination experience of Black American descendants of slaves and every thing will be fine. There will be more Black faculty then because their positions will not be usurped by people who should have never been included in the program because they have never been discriminated against for centuries like Black people have and still continue to face virulent discrimination today.

    • So let me try to bring you up to speed.

      In the Bakke decision, Supreme Court Justice Powell, wrote the majority opinion that “saved” affirmative action from legal destruction. Powell specifically rejected the argument that affirmative action could be justified as a form of reparations or compensation to blacks because of past wrongs. Apparently, he felt this could lead America down the path to “tribalism”, with different ethnic groups making demands on the country.
      Instead, he provided the “diversity” rationale you seem to dislike.

      You should also be aware that black politicians like Jesse Jackson have tried to bolster support for affirmative action in the face of strong political attacks by broadening the classes of beneficiaries to include women and “people of color”. Without this political maneuver, it is highly unlikely that affirmative action programs would have survived to this day at all. A quarter of a loaf of bread is better than nothing.

  3. Oh alleluia! Now didn’t you write the “sho’nuff” TRUTH! Although non-Blacks (e.g., Latinos) and white women may have been included in affirmative action initiatives in order to gain wider political support, it is now clear that their support came at a high price. It’s difficult to gainsay the fact that white women have been the MAIN BENEFICIARIES of affirmative action programs — even as they join with their white male counterparts in denouncing how such programs constitute of form of “reverse discrimination” insofar as Black beneficiaries are concerned.

    Leave it to whites to take a program initially aimed at historically and systemically excluded Black American and transmogrify it something for which Blacks are left with the blame and hostility, while whites (in particular, white women) walk away with majority of the benefits!

  4. In my most humble opinion the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) need to change their ideology and in lieu of or in parallel should graduate businesses as well as students. This would foster more business savvy Blacks as well as strategically sustainable businesses. Not the local barber shop, beauty salon or you-buy-we-fry type businesses, but businesses that create communities or can become the pillar of the community. This would also be an incubator for Business instructors.

    Organizations such as FLC and Autm have innovations sitting on the shelf waiting to be commercialized. All HBCU businesses would have access to these innovations even if there are some readily available at their institution. The formulation of the businesses would have every instance from R&D, which can emanate from the STEM programs to Human Resources (Psychology and Sociology) and Finance (Business, Accounting and Marketing).

    I have currently developed a 10 course Business Ecosystem curriculum that details how this can be achieved.

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