“We’re Diverse.” Says Who?
Diversity comes in all forms and fashions—from ethnicity and gender, to height, and eye color. When a business school communicates the message, “We’re diverse,” it is always a true statement in the general sense.
However, when describing the diversity of your business school community, consider the questions in which candidates, particularly those from underrepresented populations, are most interested.
Candidates want to know:
- Will there be classmates who have similar social, academic and professional backgrounds to me – classmates who identify fully with the challenges I face as a student?
- Since networking is one of the key benefits of business school, will I be able to fit in and build meaningful relationships?
- Will my classmates respect my beliefs and customs, welcome my unique perspective and show interest in learning more about my background?
- Will there be a critical mass of individuals with backgrounds different from mine so that my ideas are appropriately challenged and I can learn to produce innovative solutions?
Your school’s diversity marketing efforts should center on answering the above questions. Here are three tips to consider:
- Don’t limit your promotion of diversity to broad statements and random photos. Any school can create an email or web page with a stock photo of a diverse group of students studying together. Give your students the ability to directly answer the above questions about your school with real stories through videos, photos and in-person meetings.
- If you host a diversity event, incorporate community members from different backgrounds than the targeted candidates (e.g., if it is a women’s event, invite men). While you want to maintain the intended focus of the event, incorporating a majority population can showcase how the minority population is respected and valued. It also demonstrates how the variety of student backgrounds at your school creates a dynamic learning environment.
- If candidates have the option to connect with community members, put them in touch with two people: one with a similar background to the candidate and one with much less in common. If your staff are not able to make these connections, ask individual students or student clubs to help.
I encourage you to consider these and other creative ways to tell the true story of diversity at your school. Look for ways to connect your candidates to answers to their most important questions, and you will be able to better attract and enroll diverse students who are strong contributors in your business school community.
About the Author
Consuela Knox is director of Admissions Operations and diversity recruiting manager at Vanderbilt University Owen Graduate School of Management.