Business and Ethics

Seattle U in the News: How executive education programs in the Puget Sound region address diversity

December 12, 2019

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Too few minorities occupy executive leadership roles in the Puget Sound region. However, executive training programs like those at Seattle University and the University of Washington are trying to change that.

A story in the Puget Sound Business Journal looks at how business education programs are trying to increase diversity in upper management positions.

Marilyn Gist, PhD, the former associate dean of the Albers School of Business and Economics and executive director of Seattle University’s Center for Leadership Formation, told the Journal, “We are providing a body of knowledge and set of skills that enable (women and minorities) to qualify for those higher-level jobs. We’re doing a fair amount to increase the supply of that talent. Those doors should be wide open."

Additional excerpts from the story:

The programs in the Seattle area are advocating for a holistic solution that involves mentorship, rigorous training, confidence building, government incentives to recruit women and minorities to the C-suite and mandates — similar to the one passed in California last year — that require public companies’ boards to include women.

Gist said that even if companies don’t intentionally discriminate, it’s a natural that “when we go looking for people, we look for people who look like who we’ve always had.”

“We’re still very much in this pull-and-tug over who has a right to rise to the highest levels of economic power and corporate power,” she said. “There are some people who feel that those doors should be wide open to anyone, and there are some who feel that only those of a certain type deserve to be there.”

Women participants in Seattle University’s executive training program now match their male counterparts one-to-one, an unfathomable ratio 25 years ago, Gist said. The program recruits broadly to attract students who are first-generation Americans as well as those of other backgrounds and works to build its students’ confidence so they go after leadership roles and execute those duties competently.

Lorrie Baldevia, chief operating officer of Assured Partners MCM, came to the U.S. mainland from Guam to attend Seattle University and graduated from its Leadership Executive MBA program in 2014.

Today, she keeps an eye out for standout candidates of all backgrounds — including women and minorities — in her company. She helps them with presentations, coaches them through problem solving so they’re less likely to struggle and she’ll even buy interns a new business wardrobe so they make the best impression.

“There’s a lot of people who are leaders but no one notices them,” Baldevia said. “They may not look like you and talk like you, but they have a heart similar to you.”

The Seattle U Executive Leadership Certificate Program is among those listed in the story's resource list.

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