Roundtable for campus employers opens dialogue on diversity, inclusion

Left to right: MBA students Erin Gums, Fabian Poliak, Tam Emerson, Atim Okorn and Liz Koenig participate in the Career Management Office's employer roundtable. All photos: Manali Anne Photography

Left to right: MBA students Erin Gums, Fabian Poliak, Tam Emerson, Atim Okorn and Liz Koenig participate in the Career Management Office’s employer roundtable. All photos: Manali Anne Photography

AT&T college recruiter Mychele Riddick left an annual employer roundtable event at Berkeley Haas last week energized by new ideas for attracting MBA students with a focus on diversity and inclusion.

“All of us are looking at different ways to recruit underrepresented minorities,” said Riddick, who attended the Haas Career Management Group roundtable event, which for the first time focused exclusively on workplace diversity and inclusion in recruiting and hiring. “We really have to up our game.”

The Career Management Group shifted the focus of this year’s event after some underrepresented students shared unique challenges they had experienced during on-campus recruiting activities.  A total of 49 representatives from 31 companies attended.

“Students were asking what employers are doing to improve unconscious bias and to make underrepresented minorities feel comfortable at their companies,” said Jenn Bridge, senior director of external engagement at Haas. “So we decided to flip the whole model of our annual event this year to focus on addressing these issues.”

Increasing representation “a team effort”

One challenge is attracting underrepresented minorities (URMs)—African Americans, Hispanic Americans and Native Americans—to Haas in the first place, said Morgan Bernstein, executive director of the full-time MBA program. Last year, all of the nation’s MBA programs were competing to enroll the approximately 10,000 underrepresented minority applicants who had taken the GMAT in 2017, an indicator of the URM availability pool in any given cycle.

Morgan Bernstein discusses the challenges of bringing more underrepresented minority students into the pipeline.

Morgan Bernstein discusses the challenges of bringing more underrepresented minority students into the MBA pipeline.

The pipeline is small, the application process is rigorous, and many factors weigh into candidates’ acceptance decisions, Bernstein said. Regional preference is among those factors, with West Coast schools more challenged to enroll underrepresented minorities who reside most heavily in the New York metro area.

Increasing URM representation at Haas is a team effort, Bernstein said. The program is partnering tightly with recruiting organizations such as the Forté Foundation, which helps launch women into careers in business, The Consortium for Graduate Study in Management, a nationwide alliance of business schools and companies that seeks to increase the number of underrepresented minorities in the ranks of top business schools and upper management, and the Haas Alumni Diversity Council.

Students leading the charge

At the event, MBA students discussed the many student-led diversity and inclusion initiatives that are leading the charge at Haas. Speakers included Erin Gums, MBA 18, who served as the VP of Diversity for the MBA Association and co-chair of the Race Inclusion Initiative (RII); Liz Koenig, founder of Dialogues on Race and former co-chair RII; Atim Okorn, former co-president of the Black Business Student Association (BBSA), co-chair of RII and Dialogues on Race facilitator; and Fabian Poliak, a Consortium Fellow and a manbassador, all Full-Time MBA 18s, and Tam Emerson, MBA 19, current VP of Diversity and an LGBTQ and Latino leadership advocate.

Okorn said he gets particularly frustrated with employers who wait to contact him about finding African-American job candidates until late in the recruiting process. “There are so many opportunities to interact with the BBSA before a deadline,” he said.

Atim Okorn and Liz Koenig discussing student-led diversity & inclusion initiatives at Haas.

Atim Okorn and Liz Koenig discussing student-led diversity & inclusion initiatives at Haas.

Both employers and students share a fear of talking about race, said Koenig, who co-led “Dialogues on Race,” a ten-week student-led seminar aimed at creating a safe space for MBA students to develop better skills for engaging in these conversations. “People are scared to engage, they’re scared of asking a stupid question.” But engaging and getting out of our comfort zones is essential to making progress, she said.

Emerson said that she’s looking for “trust, consistency, and depth” from employers. “Is there a vision for diversity and inclusion? Are you willing to remove names from the first round of resumes? The university they attended? Are companies going to take the scary leap of removing things that create bias? These things are hard, but they’re aspects that we look for.”

Olivia Anglade, MBA 16, who works as a consultant at Boston Consulting Group, co-led a session on leveraging affinity groups at your company.

Olivia Anglade, MBA 16, a consultant at Boston Consulting Group, co-led a session on leveraging affinity groups at your company.

The day ended with workshops on unconscious bias in the recruiting process, led by Élida Bautista, director of diversity and inclusion at Haas; a session on leveraging affinity groups at your company, led by Lissa Filose, MBA 09,  and Olivia Anglade, MBA 16, both of The Boston Consulting Group; and best inclusion practices in the workplace, led by Awaken founder Michelle Kim, BS 11, and Ellie Tumbuan, chief strategy officer of The Justice Collective.

Bridging the gap, direct conversations

Many employers left the event with new insights and tools to attract and retain candidates.

“I always get the question about diversity and inclusion,” said Nick Bartolini-Volk, a recruiter in global talent acquisition at Old Navy. “Everyone wants to know about the culture they are joining—to know that it is supportive of different backgrounds, diversity of thought, and culture. Events like these allow you to bridge that gap and to have these direct conversations.”

AT&T’s Riddick said she planned to share with her company’s leadership the importance of diversity and inclusion conferences, and added that she’s planning to organize more small gatherings between students and ally groups within her organization. She also said she would begin recruiting earlier in order to get to know students better.

“The investment is more than worth it,” she said.

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