Chief Diversity Officers Greg Jones (center) of United, and Patricia Sowell Harris (right) of McDonald’s discuss the value of business diversity and inclusion with moderator Lourdes Duarte (left), WGN-TV anchor and DePaul alumna, during the "Celebrate Diversity at Driehaus" event.


Corporate leaders, business professors and students gathered to celebrate the diversity of DePaul University’s business school faculty and the value of diversity in business during a fireside chat and reception hosted by the Driehaus College of Business Nov. 17.

“Celebrate Diversity at Driehaus” was held in conjunction with the PhD Project’s 2015 national conference in Chicago. The New Jersey-based non-profit organization’s mission is to advance workplace diversity by recruiting minority professionals to become business school professors.  The DePaul event recognized the Driehaus College of Business for hiring the most PhD Project alumni to join its faculty among universties across the country, excluding Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

“This is a very important day not only for Driehaus and DePaul, but also for the climate we’re in,” said Stephani Mason, a DePaul assistant professor of accountancy and PhD Project alumna who organized the program. “It’s a perfect time to discuss why this matters, why it’s an imperative for business, and why DePaul is in the forefront of this effort.” 

Nationally, the PhD Project has quadrupled the number of minority professors teaching at business schools since it was founded in 1994, said Bernie Milano, president of the KPMG Foundation, which launched the initiative.  A diverse faculty creates an environment in which students of color feel that they belong and encourages them to achieve academically and professionally, he said.  “To see someone like you, that’s inspiring for students.” 

The initiative is especially important for universities like DePaul, where 34 percent of students come from underrepresented groups, said Ray Whittington, dean of the Driehaus College of Business. “We’re proud to join forces with the PhD Project to encourage this powerful ripple effect that benefits students, business schools and the business community.”   

Creating an Environment of Inclusion 

During the event’s fireside chat, moderated by WGN-TV Anchor Lourdes Duarte, a DePaul alumna (CMN ’99), guest speakers Patricia Sowell Harris, chief diversity officer at McDonald’s, and Greg Jones, chief diversity officer at United Airlines,  emphasized the value of creating an inclusive business environment. 

“We used to say that diversity is the nice thing to do, the right thing to do, but now we say it’s an imperative,” Harris said. “It starts in the boardroom…You have to make sure that you not only have diversity, but also that you’re doing the kind of things that make sure that everyone is included and heard.”

Jones noted that workplace diversity has evolved from being framed as a legal issue to becoming an integral part of leadership. “You need to be able to lead people who are different from you,” he said. “If you can lead only 60 percent of your team, then there’s a question as to whether you can lead.”

Workforces also need to reflect the consumers they serve, said Harris, author of the book “None of Us is As Good As All of Us: How McDonald’s Prospers by Embracing Inclusion and Diversity.” 

“If we want to represent our customer base, we must hire from our diverse customer base,” she said.

One audience member asked the speakers what evidence proves that diversity is a benefit for business.

Academic studies indicate diversity brings value, Stephani Mason responded. “The empirical literature finds that firms with diverse boards tend to outperform those that don’t.”  

Another benefit for business is that “a mindset that supports difference can drive innovation,”  Jones said.  

Although diversity in business has evolved, the speakers cautioned that American business still has work to do, especially in increasing the representation of women and people of color in the boardroom.

“We have to continue the conversation. If we only talk about it in our little clique, it won’t have an effect,” Harris said. “Diversity is not a destination. It’s a journey.”  

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