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How Classroom Conversations Encourage Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Business

Events in recent history have propelled conversations about diversity and inclusion in the workplace.  Many companies are now taking time to look inward and evaluate what they have done to diversify their workforce. This includes efforts to improve being more inclusive towards minority voices.  Baylor is a school that raises leaders.  In class, our professors say, “Not if you become managers or chief officers, but when you become leaders…” So, it makes sense that conversations about diversity and inclusion are happening in the classroom. Baylor recently welcomed the new William E. Crenshaw Dean of the Hankamer School of Business, Dr. Sandeep Mazumder. Dean Mazumder recently cited, “Christ-centered diversity,” as one of his three priorities for Hankamer’s future.

Baylor MBA was recently ranked #33 in Diversity, #2 in Learning, and #59 Overall by Bloomberg Businessweek’s 2020-2021 Best B-Schools report.

The topic of diversity can be intense or anxiety-inducing and can be a topic that evokes deeply-rooted emotions for some. But as emerging leaders, it is important to have tough conversations and it is important to learn how to have those conversations.  Baylor has provided a space to learn these important lessons by allocating time and resources by inviting people to speak on the subject, as well as encouraging conversations in the classroom.

In one of our core courses, our professor invited Lynette Barksdale to come to speak with us.  Ms. Barksdale currently serves as the Head of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Epic Games.  She has served as Head of Black Community Engagement at Google and led the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion department at Access, an Alphabet company.  She is an advocate for minority representation in the tech world and is pushing for using technology to better our education system as well as many other industries.  This conversation with Ms. Barksdale gave me a new perspective into certain aspects of business and gave me a newfound interest in molding the workplace to be a more diverse environment to hear all voices.

Ms. Barksdale explained what exactly her job entails, covered trends that she has seen since she entered the workforce, and allowed conversations to happen in a safe space.  She facilitates trainings and educational seminars for not only executives and hiring managers, but for all levels of employees.  She sits in on board meetings, develops diversity programs, and has created initiatives to promote diversity and encourage minority voices in these massive companies.  While she stays busy creating policies and guidelines, she also manages to dedicate time to pour into her community.

Ms. Barksdale talked with us about current projects that she is working on in light of the social justice movements over the past months and shared her perspective on these topics of equality not just in the workplace, but in our country.  She encouraged us to put in work now while we are in the learning environment to read, talk, and research our country’s history.  To reflect and process what we learn now is a vital part of the journey to becoming effective leaders.

“This conversation stirred up a passion and a fire in me and reignited a hope and desire for a better future.”

With all the knowledge and experience that Ms. Barksdale brought to this conversation, you can imagine how some of us felt a bit hesitant at the beginning of this talk.  Her accomplishments and her education on the subjects of diversity and inclusion are incredible and inspiring on so many levels. However, one of the greatest things I took away from our conversation was her humility and her willingness to talk with us at 6:00 PM on a Tuesday night.  What was slated for a one-hour talk turned into a two-hour conversation, and only ended because our professor started to feel bad for keeping her for too long.  She created a space where we felt comfortable with asking difficult questions without feeling judged. She was just happy to be here talking with a group of engaged students.

Reflecting back on follow-up conversations with peers after the class and looking back on the notes I took, I got excited for the future of business.  At the end of our time together, she provided resources that included books, podcast channels, and TED talks as well as her own contact information if we ever wanted to talk with her more about this topic.

For more information about Lynette Barksdale and work in the area of DEI, check out her LinkedIn profile.

To all students who read this, I encourage you to ask the hard questions.  I encourage you to be willing to have conversations about diversity and inclusion.  Bring it up in the classroom and encourage others to have conversations about what diversity looks like and what it should look like.  You never know, someone may have the exact same question that you have!  Seek out those who have experience and expertise on the subject.  Use your time at Baylor, while surrounded by future world-changers, to get the most out of your experience.  Baylor is a special place, filled with special people and you will have such a special experience.

Photo (l to r): Noureen Housnani ’21, Corrie Tebay ’21, and Sabrina Tran ’21


About the Author

Anna Beard is a 2020 grad of Baylor’s dual-degree MBA/MSW program and holds a Bachelor of Social Work from the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work. While in her master’s programs, Ms. Beard served as a Baylor Football Recruitment Student Worker, as a Research Assistant in the area of integration of faith and social work practice, and as the MBA program’s Lead Ambassador. Additionally, Anna conducted her own research in the area of gender differences in the integration of faith and mental health care.

Currently, Anna is an academic and success coach for student-athletes at the University of South Carolina.

About Baylor’s MBA Programs

Baylor’s MBA Programs are designed strategically for professionals looking to take their careers to the next level in leadership. Rigorous MBA classes taught by dedicated faculty and industry experts offer both theoretical knowledge and the practical skills required to succeed in modern global business. Wherever you are in your career today, Baylor has an MBA program to fit your lifestyle and move you toward your professional goals: Full-Time MBA, Executive MBA in Dallas, Executive MBA in Austin, and an Online MBA.

Prospective candidates can learn more about all Baylor MBA programs by visiting the Baylor MBA website: https://www.baylor.edu/business/mba/.

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