McDonough School of Business
News Story

MBA Students, Administrators Work to Address Implicit Bias

Students at Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business frequently discuss ethical and social issues related to leadership and business in the classroom, as highlighted by a recent New York Times article. While the school prepares and encourages students to have these difficult conversations — informed by its commitment to diversity and inclusion and the Jesuit value of educating the whole person — the MBA Program has taken new steps to address implicit bias.

Implicit bias describes the attitudes or stereotypes that unconsciously affect actions and decisions. It can impact hiring and promotion practices, affect client services, and influence the culture of an organization.

In 2017, the Graduate Women in Business (GWIB) student club launched a pilot implicit bias training program and is now working with the MBA Program Office to further increase awareness and integrate training into the MBA student experience.

The awareness-raising session in fall 2017 attracted 30 participants, including faculty and administrators, and garnered support from across the MBA community. The event was co-sponsored by an exceptionally high number of groups, including the MBA Program Office, Student Government Association, Human Capital and Leadership Club, Latin American Business Association, Black MBA Association, Consortium, and Out@MSB.

Aware of the mixed results from corporate implicit bias training programs, GWIB had worked for over nine months researching lessons learned from other implicit bias trainings and identifying effective trainers and curricula. They brought in Bryant Marks to facilitate the pilot. A seasoned implicit bias trainer, Marks is the founder and lead trainer at the National Training and Education Institute, associate professor of psychology at Morehouse College, and former senior advisor to the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

Marks’ approach focuses on associations rather than prejudice and establishes trust and credibility from the onset by demonstrating how all human beings hold these associations. In feedback surveys, students wrote that the data he presented during the training was “relatable” and “some were a revelation.”

Implicit bias training “better prepares students for successful careers as principled business leaders and continues to improve our amazing community,” said Kerry Pace, associate dean of MBA programs. “By spending time reflecting on and acknowledging our own biases, we are following our Jesuit heritage of women and men in service to others and to ourselves.”

Previous student-led reflection efforts include a spring 2017 event on the role of business and social justice, led by the Net Impact Club and Black MBA Association, which welcomed representatives from Google, Social Tables and WilmerHale, and a fall forum, organized by the Consortium, called “Critical Conversations: Charlottesville.”

On the heels of the implicit bias pilot, GWIB and the MBA Program Office are working together to expand implicit bias training to ensure students enter the workforce more capable of empowering diverse teams and, in turn, contribute to their companies’ bottom line.