This weekend, I’ve been doing a lot of research trying to finalize my plans for the NBMBAA (National Black MBA) and NSHMBA (National Hispanic MBA) annual conferences. Having recently won both scholarships as incoming business school student, I am lucky to be able to attend both conferences at no cost. Considering how fortunate I am to be in this position, I’ve been thinking a lot about diversity, and decided I would take a moment to talk a little about it here, especially in light of Hispanic Heritage Month.
I believe that in America today, we are in a “race” to bring diversity to our professional communities. Even in my short career, I’ve already learned that diverse teams are essential to success in the market place. Just as cross-functional teams are used to create value in the market, so too do cross-cultural teams offer the richest possibility to improve our businesses, laws, and policies in today’s diverse economy. Hispanic Americans represent a large part of this diversity. They make up more than 15% of the US population and add immeasurable value to America’s economy and its communities.
Coming from Arizona, I experienced this firsthand, where Hispanics represent nearly a third of the population and where they contribute to every single part of the economy, white collar and blue collar. Hispanic Heritage Month is the period to recognize all of this value that the Hispanic Americans have had in the United States and a time to celebrate their culture. The observation of the month started in 1968, and more than 40 years later the event is still largely celebrated. The month begins on September 15th, because that day represents the anniversary of independence for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua (Mexico and Chile also celebrate their anniversaries in September)
Here at Northwestern Law, a good friend of mine happens to be the Hispanic Heritage month Co-Chair for the Latino Law Students Association. She’s currently a 2L, and she’s putting together a wide range of events to recognize the efforts of the Hispanic here in the US. Knowing her dedication to the club and to Northwestern, I am certain the events are going to be terrific.
I don’t know exactly what she has in mind, but I suspect it will be something to engage the entire community. An obvious first point of reference being in law school is Sonia Sotomayor, our new US Supreme Court justice. Sotomayor is now the first Hispanic American ever to serve the court, as well as only the third woman. Not only is it a monumental moment in history, but it’s also at a time when our economy needs her most.
As the economic crisis still looms over the business and legal worlds, progressive schools have realized that recruiting exceptional Hispanic and other underrepresented minority students is one of the keys to re-establishing America’s long-term success. At the top 20 MBA programs, there are still only 7% to 10% blacks and Hispanics, and in the world of Fortune 500 companies and blue chip law firms, the percentage of CEO’s and Senior Partners is about half that.
Although our integration process is still far from complete, we do continue to see progress take place at top graduate schools, especially business schools. Kudos to organizations such as the National Society of Hispanic MBAs (NSHMBA), Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT), and the Consortium Scholarship Program, which give access to Hispanic (and other minority) scholarships and professional training. I suggest that anyone who qualifies for these programs consider them as you are applying. And as usual, I’ll give a special endorsement for MLT, where the best and the brightest come while applying the business school.
But for a moment, what’s more important than winning scholarships and fine tuning your career is that on September 15th we all take a moment to reflect and appreciate the impact that Hispanics and all minorities have had on all of our lives. Furthermore, we should also understand that to further improve our society, it’s imperative that we continue to increase the diversity in our schools as well as at all levels of our labor force and ultimately work in teams together. Only then will we be able to put everyone in our nation to their best use and collectively unlock our greatest potential for change.