THE BLOG
01/12/2012 07:54 am ET Updated Mar 13, 2012

Beyond Fisher v. Texas: The Ongoing Threat to Diversity

In his October 15 story on Fisher v. Texas, the first challenge to the Supreme Court's 2003 Grutter v. Bollinger decision establishing diversity as a compelling state interest, New York Times correspondent Adam Liptak summed up the risks as follows:

Diversity is the last man standing, the sole remaining legal justification for racial preferences in deciding who can study at public universities. Should the Supreme Court disavow it, the student body at the University of Texas and many other public colleges and universities would almost instantly become whiter and more Asian, and less black and Hispanic.

I couldn't agree more, which is why I will be extremely disappointed if Grutter is overturned.

What I won't be is surprised.

As a citizen of Mexican and Native American descent and CEO of The Consortium for Graduate Study in Management, the leading advocate for diversity and inclusion in American business education and practice, I am always looking for signs that the country finally sees diversity for what it is -- not a minority problem, but a tremendous national opportunity. Grutter looked like just such a sign. Finally, discussions about diversity could move beyond whether it should be tolerated, valued or embraced to how it benefits students, workers, consumers and the American economy.

Unfortunately, that's not what happened. While 2010 Census data show tremendous growth among minority groups, U.S. News & World Report reveals that, at roughly 75 percent, white students still dominate the student bodies of the top-50 full-time MBA programs. The picture for minority faculty and administration members is even worse, with minorities representing less than 5 percent of each group.

Given these facts, it's no surprise that MBA curricula remain largely unchanged, with no new case studies being developed that would prepare students to manage and lead multicultural workforces and conduct business in a multicultural marketplace. Rather than reflecting the needs of a 21st-century business environment, MBA coursework reflects those of a less diverse, much more easily managed world -- one that is fast disappearing if it has not already vanished.

The implications are frightening for every aspect of business, from research to product development to manufacturing to marketing to distribution. Yet most business leaders still have their heads in the sand, giving little thought to how a diverse population will affect their companies' futures.

Workforce data show that white employees represent roughly 90 percent of management while Hispanic, Asian, African and Native Americans represent roughly 10 percent altogether. When they start to retire, the 90 percent -- baby boomers, for the most part -- will take with them the majority of America's corporate leadership. With those coming up behind them unprepared to meet the needs of diverse consumers and to engage diverse suppliers, to name just two of the staples of a culturally diverse marketplace, American business and the American economy face a daunting future.

While I fervently hope that Grutter v. Bollinger is upheld and while I firmly believe that this groundbreaking decision has critical implications for diversity in America, there is considerable work to be done that extends well beyond the purview of this case.

Peter Aranda is CEO of The Consortium for Graduate Study in Management, a national coalition of universities and corporations and the leading advocate for diversity and inclusion in American business. Since 1966, The Consortium has awarded over $230 million in full-tuition, merit-based MBA scholarships to African, Hispanic and Native American MBA candidates with stellar academic records and a proven commitment to diversity. For more information, visit cgsm.org.