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Business as a force for change

Business as a force for change

This is a statement from Dean Doug Shackelford (BSBA ’80) about the importance of DEI as a force for change at UNC Kenan-Flagler.

The business community is one of the most powerful and sustainable forces in society today to identify and eliminate structural racism. With the country’s deeply painful political and social divide, the business community is driving the way forward. Indeed, nothing is more on the minds of business leaders than diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and their impact can be substantial considering how much time we spend at work.

UNC Kenan-Flagler, through its direct connection to business and industry, plays an instrumental role in addressing structural racism. Not only do we have researchers and classes devoted specifically to issues surrounding structural racism, but all of our courses are about developing leaders who can improve the world.  Since business schools build and inspire the leaders and managers of business, UNC Kenan-Flagler’s work is crucial to addressing structural racism.

UNC Kenan-Flagler’s mission – “Through the power of innovation and community, we build and inspire leaders who improve the world” – does not mention the elimination of structural racism, but achieving that goal is central to the School’s identity. We encourage good business practices through our research, teaching and service. We do it through better accounting, management communication, entrepreneurship, finance, marketing, operations, strategy and organizational behavior.

The need for talent

Business needs talent that can drive change. To get the best talent, business – and business schools – must create environments that attract and retain people from diverse racial/ethnic groups. Acting not only out of an ethical responsibility, but also out of its own best interest, the business community is addressing structural racism.

Historically, most business leaders have been white males. UNC Kenan-Flagler faculty and student ranks also have been replete with white males. The business community today demands a diverse talent pool, and it is particularly hungry for women and other previously underrepresented U.S. populations (URP).

UNC Kenan-Flagler needs to enroll more female and URP students across its programs to satisfy employers’ hiring demands. In addition to representative enrollment, employers expect business schools to turn out students with DEI understanding and the malleability required to lead diverse organizations. Since employer satisfaction is a key performance indicator for business schools, UNC Kenan-Flagler’s sustainability as a top business school demands a more diverse mix of students and effective DEI instruction for everyone.

Furthermore, establishing the sense of belonging that will attract more women and minority students depends critically on a greater presence and influence of female and URP faculty and staff.

Over the next decade, women will become a significant percentage of our senior faculty as we have made strides in bringing in female junior faculty. URP faculty, however, remain a small percentage of our faculty despite increased hiring in recent years. Hiring URP faculty is a strategic imperative as faculty representation affects enrollment of a diverse student mix.

In closing, the business community, and thus, business schools, are powerful forces to fight against the systemic racism in our country. It is not only a moral imperative, but also a business imperative to identify and eliminate structural racism in our country. UNC Kenan-Flagler has made significant progress on many fronts in recent years but still needs better diversity and sense of belonging among our faculty, staff and students.

Doug Shackelford
Dean and Meade H. Willis Distinguished Professor of Taxation