Examining the Diversity Curriculum of Leading Executive MBA Programs in the United States

Examining the Diversity Curriculum of Leading Executive MBA Programs in the United States

Mariya Gavrilova Aguilar (University of North Texas, USA), Pamela Bracey (University of North Texas, USA) and Jeff Allen (University of North Texas, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-1812-1.ch002
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Properly managed diversity practices enable organizations to maximize human capital, create a sustainable competitive advantage, attract more customers, and become more profitable. Many organizations conduct diversity training to address workplace diversity issues. Top management communicates the value of and commitment to diversity, whereas managers facilitate an environment that embraces diversity. Diversity management has emerged as a prominent strategy to handle diversity issues. This chapter examines diversity curriculum of leading Executive MBA (EMBA) programs in the United States and highlights the current state of the educational environment in addition to explaining how curriculum supports diversity and inclusion reforms at the organizational level. Through content analysis, the authors summarized the diversity topics featured in 20 leading EMBA programs in the United States. None of the reviewed programs explicitly utilized the word “diversity” in any of their core or elective course titles, and only three (3) explicitly mentioned the words “diverse” or “diversity” within course descriptions. Nevertheless, the data suggest that programs do seek to offer some form of experiences which have the potential and intent to enhance cultural awareness. The majority of programs under study require students to travel to a foreign country to participate in global travel exploration. The authors provide recommendations for future research related to effectively implementing diversity practices and curriculum so that leaders become better equipped to address the challenges of diversity for their organizations.
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The change in workforce demographics, increase of jobs in the service economy, continuing growth of globalization, and requirements for effective teamwork have emerged as significant forces in the business environment that drive the importance of diversity (Hitt, Miller, & Colella, 2006). Vecchio and Bullis (2001) stipulated that “as workplace diversity increases and supervisory ranks are staffed by a broader range of individuals, it becomes increasingly more common to be supervised by someone who is, in historical terms, an atypical supervisor” (p. 884). Having a multicultural workforce allows organizations to enhance marketing efforts, team building, problem solving, organizational flexibility, creativity, and innovation (Cox, 1993). Nevertheless, employees work in a workplace environment where diversity issues surface daily. Despite the US Census predictions of a more diverse US population, Buttner, Lowe, and Billings-Harris (2009) claimed that minority groups will still be underrepresented in professional occupations because of leader racial insensitivity, discrimination, (un)equal opportunity theory, and low organizational diversity strategic priorities. To some, this may be surprising provided that the first anti-discrimination legislation in the United States was introduced over 50 years ago. Currently, not only are US organizations witnessing inefficient diversity efforts but they are also facing a more significant challenge: lack of inclusion. “Diversity without inclusion does not work” (Miller & Katz, 2002, p. 17). Roberson (2004) explained diversity as emphasizing organizational demography and inclusion as being concerned with eliminating barriers to the integration of employees within the organization. How can we strive for inclusion if we are still struggling for diversity? Ultimately, the goal is to move away from compliance in the form of diversity quotas and mandatory training, and embrace integration within the organizational culture in the form of inclusion, which results in a more committed workforce. McMahon (2006) discussed various diversity aspects depending on the desired goals of the organization: regulatory compliance; social justice; departmental responsibility (i.e., HR department), strategic planning outcome; or a community-focused activity. For the purposes of this chapter, the authors explored diversity from a strategic planning outcome perspective focusing on the roles of managers and leaders in leveraging diversity. Pursuing systemic and planned organizational change is one of the multi-faceted outcomes of diversity (Kreitz, 2008). This chapter examines the course curriculum and content areas emphasizing and promoting the importance of workforce diversity incorporated into 20 leading Executive MBA (EMBA) programs in the United States. The chapter also highlights the current state of the educational environment and how it supports diversity and inclusion reforms at the organizational level.

Key Terms in this Chapter

HR (Human Resources) Paradigm: A diversity management approach focused on aligning recruitment, selection, promotion, etc. policies and procedures with diversity goals.

Implicit Terms: Terms used in content analysis that are inferred; implicit.

EMBA: Executive Master of Business Administration; programs designed for managers seeking career and organizational advancement.

Diversity Management: Maximizing diversity through voluntary organizational actions and implementation of specific policies and procedures.

Monolithic Organization: A homogeneous organization that forces assimilation into the dominant culture.

Diversity: Cultural or demographic differences among individuals.

MO (Multicultural Organization) Paradigm: This term, coined by Taylor Cox, refers to a diversity management approach that creates and sustains an organizational culture that provides opportunities for individuals of diverse backgrounds.

Plural Organization: A heterogeneous organization committed to preventing discrimination.

Explicit Terms: Terms used in content analysis that are obvious to identify; specific.

Inclusion: Accepting all differences and involving individuals at all levels of the organization; the ultimate goal of diversity management.

Multicultural Organization: Demonstrates a culture committed to equality and diversity.

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