Report shows minority business majors dropping

Posted 5:37 p.m. Feb. 25

by Jamie Meltzer

(U-WIRE) WASHINGTON – Minorities earned significantly fewer undergraduate business degrees in the 1990s than previous decades, according to a report released this month by the Diversity Pipeline Alliance.

This disparity will have disastrous effects on companies, the report warned, when normal hiring resumes after the current recession.

In 1998, only 21 percent of bachelor’s degrees earned by blacks were in business. This is a 26 percent drop from 1989.

According to analysis of the U.S. Census and Bureau of Labor Statistics’ data included in the report, by 2028 there will be 19 million jobs without the skilled workers necessary to fill the positions.

The rapidly changing demographics of the country are forcing companies to tap into the minority population to prevent a labor shortage, the report indicated.

Companies greatly benefit from a diverse workforce, according to Bernard J. Milano, president of the KPMG foundation, a philanthropic division of the consulting firm and alliance member. “I think the maximum benefit is that you inject more creativity if people are approaching problems from different perspectives,” Milano said.

By having a diverse workforce, the corporation and the customers it serves will have a greater understanding of each other, Milano said. The reasons for this rapport, Milano continued, could be for a variety of reasons.

For example, products currently are advertised to a global marketplace serving a broad spectrum of people. If people on staff are from these different ethnic and racial groups, the product will be marketed in a way that is more applicable to the varied clientele, Milano explained. The DPA is a partnership between 11 organizations united in the goal of diversifying education.

“[The groups want to] help minorities work their way through the pipeline; they would do it a lot better together than individually,” said Lisa King of Ned Steele Communications, the organization hired by the alliance to compile officially and release “The Pipeline Report: The Status of Minority Participation in Business Education.”

The DPA and Ned Steele Communications partners strove to “lay the groundwork to show the lack of minority representation not only in business schools but workforce as a whole,” King said.

When asked what can be done to bridge this gap, King stressed many factors are to blame. The alliance next hopes to identify specific causes and solutions by organizing focus groups of minority students, she said. “One reason [for the disparity] is that there were no mentors. If a business school has no one that looks like you, why would you go there? It would be a frightening place,” she explained.

Without a degree, minorities more likely will fill lower positions in the business marketplace instead of becoming the leaders of major corporations.

King recognized many people do pursue careers in business without getting degrees in the field but agreed with the report, which states, “It is of greater concern when minorities turn away from this most direct and relevant path to a business career.”

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