Update to the Action Plan for Racial Equity

Senior Associate Dean Sarah Soule writes to the Stanford GSB community sharing updates on the school's DEI goals.

February 23, 2021

Black History Month is a time when we celebrate and recognize the contributions of Black Americans to the United States.

Black History Month holds even more significance than usual this year because 2020 was a year of awakening for many of us. It was a year in which a global pandemic brought increased attention and urgency to efforts to eradicate the inequities in health, education, job security, and basic human safety that impact Black Americans and other people of color in our country. As well, the national uprising against racial injustice sparked renewed urgency to address racial inequality in society and on our campus.

Thus, as part of our broader efforts to honor Black History Month, we reaffirm our commitment to the goals laid out in our Action Plan for Racial Equity and are pleased to provide an update to the work we have done since we published the APRE in July 2020. While our 2020 DEI Report highlighted some of our work, we have made further progress since then and in the spirit of holding ourselves accountable, we provide additional details herein.

The APRE was the result of listening to the powerful stories of our Black students, alumni, staff, and faculty. Thanks to their willingness and courage to share, we developed deeper empathy and understanding of what it is like to encounter bias and discrimination and to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles to be seen, valued, and honored members of the Stanford GSB community. The APRE was also inspired by the energy of the GSB community to work together to promote racial equity here at the School, as well as throughout the country and the world.

Our APRE, like our broader goals of creating a diverse, equitable, and inclusive GSB community, are in service of our broader mission, which is to create ideas that deepen and advance our understanding of management and to use these ideas to develop innovative, principled, and insightful leaders who make positive change in the world. The goals of the APRE aim to increase representation, build greater inclusion and belonging, drive positive change beyond Stanford GSB, and ensure accountability.

Increasing Representation

We remain committed to increasing the representation of Black and other underrepresented minority members in our community, and have made progress through our focus on increasing the diversity of people seeking to join our community, participating in focused searches, and weeding out biases and other barriers from our processes. We are proud to report on several efforts to reach talented people who have been underrepresented in our community to date.

  • The MBA Admissions Office hosted a new program, Diversity in Leadership: Community+Connection, a full week of online programming that ran November 9-13, 2020. There were 23 sessions (with approximately 1,500+ event attendees) on DEI issues, and several specifically on race, including one with Professor Huggy Rao which featured two new video case studies featuring Black women C-suite leaders.
  • We have made strong progress with our BOLD Fellows Fund, which was announced as part of the GSB’s Action Plan for Racial Equity. 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 our student body. Our External Relations team reports substantial excitement and engagement from our community members who wish to support this fund. We have begun awarding Round 1 BOLD Fellowships and look forward to continuing building this first cohort of fellows, each of whom will receive $30,000 ($15,000 each year).
  • As part of our efforts to increase the diversity of people seeking to join our PhD Programs, 21 faculty and PhD students, across all seven academic areas of study, shared their experiences with prospective students at the PhD Project’s annual recruiting fair in November 2020.
  • On the faculty side, we joined the broader Stanford University-wide search for 10 tenure-line faculty who are leaders in the study of the impact of race in America. These searches are ongoing, and we will provide an update in the coming months.

Building a Culture of Inclusion and Belonging

We remain committed to creating a culture of inclusion so that all members of our community feel like they belong and so we can all thrive. Thus far, we have focused our efforts on our classroom experience and curriculum.

  • We set a goal of having every case study written in FY21 feature a protagonist who brings diversity (broadly defined) into the classroom. Working with our Black alumni, we have 19 new cases featuring Black protagonists completed or in progress and are scoping additional opportunities. While this focus has increased the percentage of cases about a Black protagonist in our elective courses from one percent in 2018-19 to over six percent, we humbly recognize these numbers are still woefully small and will continue working to expand representation in our case library.
  • The GSB hosted the first Rising Scholars Conference for underrepresented minority PhD students and postdoctoral scholars and those whose backgrounds and experience bring additional dimensions of diversity to the educational experience. The conference was held in October 2020 and included 56 student presenters, 112 faculty/student meetings, and many prominent scholars, including GSB Professor and Director of the Hoover Institution Condoleezza Rice (former US Secretary of State and Stanford Provost) and NYU Professor Peter Henry, Dean Emeritus, Leonard N. Stern School of Business, as speakers. The success of this event led to the commitment of our peer schools to host this every year, rotating among the institutions.
  • Professor Sarah Soule and Lead Strategist for DEI, Lori Mackenzie, developed two mandatory workshops for students enrolled in the PhD Program. The first focuses on how implicit or unconscious bias impacts multiple facets of academia, ranging from letters of recommendation to the publishing process. The second focuses on building a culture of inclusion and belonging by promoting upstander behavior, micro-sponsorship, and other positive actions that all students can take to ensure that everyone in the community feels welcome and that they can thrive. These workshops were run in August 2020 and January 2021.
  • Professor Sarah Soule developed and offered a PhD seminar that focuses on academic studies of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Academia. Students studied research on the effects of implicit and explicit bias on academic careers, with an eye toward understanding how academic leaders can mitigate the effects of bias so as to foster the careers of BIPOC. The inaugural seminar took place in the Autumn 2020, and will subsequently be offered on a yearly basis.

Making Positive Changes Beyond GSB

As a leading institution of higher education, we have the opportunity to enact change beyond our corridors and our campus through our actions, our thought leadership, and our positive example.

  • We are finalizing the curriculum and marketing materials for our new Executive Program for Black Leaders, which will launch in August 2021. Professor Brian Lowery is the faculty director and the website with more details will launch in March 2021.
  • Our Alumni Task Force, under the direction of our new Director of Diverse Alumni Communities, Allison Rouse, was formed and started meeting in February. The Task Force will engage the alumni community to increase representation, strengthen leadership, and foster economic opportunity for underrepresented minorities.
  • The Stanford Alumni Consulting Team, in which alumni provide pro bono consulting expertise to nonprofits, has been soliciting and prioritizing work with nonprofits with a racial equity mission, nonprofits with projects focused on advancing racial equity, and/or organizations with stated aims to serve Black communities within and outside the Bay Area. The ACT is in the midst of their Fall-Winter 2020-21 cycle and is working with four nonprofits: Tech Exposure & Access Through Mentoring (TEAM), Coalition of Black Excellence, LitLab, and Unity Care. Additionally, Stanford ACT is working to design anti-racism development opportunities for ACT volunteers to enhance the effectiveness of project teams and their work with nonprofit organizations.
  • Professor Brian Lowery has been leading conversations with prominent leaders that are designed to deepen awareness of racial disparities in the US and globally, in his Leadership for Society: Race & Power window class. The class is open to all, and there is a podcast for those who miss it. Approximately 500 people from around the world attend the class with about 1,000 downloads of each podcast episode.
  • Professors Sarah Soule and Maggie Neale and Hannah Yanow, online learning manager for Executive Education, created The Anti-Racism and Allyship 7-Day Journey (AAJ) as a starting point for those who want to begin the process of learning, reflecting, and acting on anti-racism and developing their skills as allies. Between September 2, 2020 and February 7, 2021, over 9,000 people from 100 countries engaged with the Journey, generating over 27,000 page views.
  • In April, the Center for Entrepreneurial Studies will host Building Momentum: Diversity and Entrepreneurship, a virtual conference designed to encourage and support diversity in entrepreneurship by sharing inspirational personal stories, tactical skills and practical knowledge, facilitating powerful networking, and highlighting organizations actively working to advance the successes of entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds.
  • Our alumni join us in our goals of promoting racial justice and equity. Currently, 27 alumni classes, independent of the GSB, have created racial justice and equity initiatives.

Holding Ourselves Accountable

Many of us at Stanford were privileged to attend the talk by Isabel Wilkerson. Speaking about the reasons for writing her award-winning book, Caste, Wilkerson remarked that ‘if we can’t see it, we can’t fix it.’ At Stanford GSB, we wholeheartedly agree with Wilkerson. As part of our goal to hold ourselves accountable to what we have promised, we are working to improve our measurement of our goals, and to put in place structures of accountability.

The DEI Council was formed and met for the first time on February 18. Council members craft, articulate, and report on unit-specific goals on DEI and the APRE, give timely feedback, and collaborate on shared solutions. The Council has identified three work streams for this academic year to advance our collective work at GSB. The first is devoted to ensuring that our various processes in hiring, performance evaluation, and recognitions and awards follow research-based strategies to weed out biases and other barriers; the second will work on improving DEI data to accurately and respectfully represent our community and reporting; and the third will focus on DEI training and the overall educational experience to support community members in creating an inclusive campus and learning experience. At the end of this year, we will evaluate this inaugural format and incorporate enhancements into next year’s design. Here are the members of the Council:

  • Student members: Tony Douglas (MBA1), Dan Knapp (MBA2), Valeria Martinez (MBA2), and Abraham Oshotse (PhD).
  • Staff members: Walt Ashe, Bernadette Clavier, Arthel Coleman, Koryn Dillard, Davina Drabkin, Melissa Griffith, Joanna Halk, Kiefer Hickman, Pamela Levine, Lori Mackenzie, Bridget McNeil, Andrea Moore, David Reed, Allison Rouse, Wil Torres, Singari Seshadri, Hannah Yanow, and Monica Yoder.
  • Faculty members: Sarah Soule and Gabriel Weintraub.

Because it is critical that all members of our community know what we have accomplished and where we are struggling to meet our goals, we have also been working on both internal and external communication. This includes updates such as this one, but also more frequent meetings and forums, and empowering the members of our DEI Council to provide frequent updates within their units and to their colleagues. We recognize that we still have more work to do, and this will continue to be a focus of our efforts.

Concluding Thoughts

While Black History Month is a dedicated time that we set aside to celebrate and recognize the contributions of Black Americans, our acknowledgement and work is not limited to this single month. During 2020, our year of awakening, we gained increased awareness and deeper understanding of the inequities that Black Americans and people of color face on a daily basis across a wide variety of interactions and experiences. We have also come to recognize the importance of acknowledging and celebrating Black history and the accomplishments of Black Americans every month, all year long, because Black history is American history. This is true of other communities of color as well. So we conclude this update by reaffirming our ongoing and constant commitment to the goals laid out in our Action Plan for Racial Equity and invite you to be our partners in this important work.

With gratitude,

Sarah Soule
The Morgridge Professor of Organizational Behavior

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