To Change Society, First Change Your Perspective
On a hot Friday in Plano Texas, my world was rocked.
As a newly minted MBA Prep Fellow attending my first MLT event, I marveled over what I was witnessing. I and a few hundred Black and Brown aspiring MBA candidates had gathered at PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay Headquarters for a packed weekend full of introspection and professional development. I was in the company of successful founders, doctors, lawyers, and investors of color—all of whom were looking to further advance their education through an MBA.
I was in awe over what I saw for the same reason that we as Black and Brown people are often praised for being “articulate.” The image that I had been fed my entire life—that I was somehow the exception to an unspoken rule—was countered by the sheer number of talented, ambitious pre-MBAs who joined me that day in Texas.
That reality I experienced in April 2015 has drastically changed my perspective. In fact, it is my new reality. I now scoff when I hear MBA admissions directors trying to defend their abysmal diversity numbers with claims of a “pipeline issue.” Through MLT, I have been exposed to several thousand extremely successful pre-MBAs and MBAs who could literally be successful at nearly any job, at any company. They are certainly well-qualified, and perhaps over-qualified, for many MBA programs. So, we need to change the narrative. We cannot change the reality without changing the perception—the pervasive biases.
Organizations like MLT, that are focused on advancing education and career opportunities for Black and Brown people, are integral to breaking down these misconceptions and challenging these feeble pipeline arguments
As Americans, we are fed a certain image of Black and Brown people. It shows up in our textbooks, our media, our housing policies, our healthcare system, and the list goes on. Arguably, however, it is most present in our universities and workplaces. The lack of diversity in our universities is widespread—but it is even more pronounced in MBA programs. That lack of diversity in MBA programs naturally leads to a lack of diversity in the executive ranks and boards of our beloved corporate America. There’s a reason why there are so few Black and Brown CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. There’s a reason why we have seen LinkedIn flooded with messages from prominent organizations documenting their failures in diversity and inclusion and vowing to do more. The reality of our society is that Black and Brown people are, and always have been, underserved and underrepresented.
Organizations like MLT, that are focused on advancing education and career opportunities for Black and Brown people, are integral to breaking down these misconceptions and challenging these feeble pipeline arguments. Education is an integral component of racial justice. Through education, we will surely change the face of corporate America—and Black and Brown people will claim their due share of societal wealth. With this wealth comes social capital, which provides people of color a powerful voice and vehicle for change.
I am fully aware that educating Black and Brown people will not end racism, criminalization of Black and Brown people, police brutality, etc. However, it will ultimately give us our rightful seat at the table and the economics to truly drive change. This is why I stand with and support MLT—this is why I am #MLTProud.
This post was authored by Jamil Bashir. Jamil is an alumnus of the Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT) MBA Prep program (2015) and an MLT Professional Development Fellow (2017). Jamil currently serves as a Finance Rotation Development Program Associate at Genentech, a partner organization of Management Leadership for Tomorrow.