How Businesses Can Partner With Colleges To Diversify Entry-Level Talent Pipeline

Good afternoon.

Colleges and universities, particularly Ivy Leagues, are critical in populating corporate America’s entry-level talent pipeline. In short, diverse educational institutions generate increasingly diverse workforces.

The Supreme Court’s June reversal of affirmative action, prohibiting race-based decisions in college admissions, could have substantial outcomes at some organizations, Fortune’s Paige McGlauflin and Trey Williams wrote in a May feature exploring the looming crisis for corporate America. In it, they cite a study that found areas with less diverse medical programs resulted in hospitals employing fewer Black doctors, negatively affecting patient care and vice versa. Areas with a higher prevalence of Black doctors led to lower mortality rates among Black residents in those counties.

Naturally, businesses and higher education are inextricably linked, and bridging the diversity gap will require more vital collaboration between both factions.

Speaking at Fortune‘s Most Powerful Women Summit earlier this month, Sian Beilock, president of Dartmouth University and the first female head in its 250-year history, shared her efforts to diversify the semiconductor industry by partnering with corporate leaders.

“We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in our country to think about the semiconductor industry and how we onshore as a matter of national security,” she told me. A glaring problem, she said, is that the U.S. doesn’t have enough engineers to fill semiconductor roles, which is attributable to the dearth of women and people of color who express early interest in tech fields. Dartmouth is one of six colleges, along with Brown University and Indiana University, to form the Edge Consortium. The group aims to double the number of industry-ready women and people of color for semiconductor-related careers, and it argues that the $52.7 billion CHIPS Act signed into law last year can only deliver on its promise to make the U.S. a leader in semiconductors if the engineering workforce becomes more diverse.

“We have to open up the doors to get into these fields. We have to think about multiple entry points; it’s not just one weed-out calculus class, but rather, how do we think about all the opportunities to show meaning in engineering and STEM for women and people of color,” Beilock said.

This month, the Edge Consortium will meet with business leaders to discuss the workforce skills they need in an effort to help college faculty create related classroom learnings. These types of employer-higher ed conversations don’t happen often enough, Beilock said. “We see our job as developing students. Companies see their jobs as hiring students, and we have to think about this in a new way.” Beilack stresses the need to blur boundaries. “It’s not that you have an education and then you go into the workforce, [but] how do we think about the workforce actually coming into education?”

Companies must also expand who they deem job-ready. “There is this idea that if you have a liberal arts education…you’re not job-ready on day one,” Beilock said. She resents that perception, noting that the key distinction of a liberal arts education is it teaches students how to think—not what to think. She urged that companies should want students who can interrogate existing systems and are learning what questions to ask, especially as AI use and its ethics ramp up. “It is about thinking in a different way,” Beilock said.

Ruth Umoh

What’s Trending

Investing in diversity. California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law a bill requiring the state’s VC firms annually report the diversity of the founders in which they’re investing. The bill also requires firms to release their diversity data publicly. Diversity advocates hope the bill will provide more transparency into how VC dollars are allocated, given that funding for female, Black, or Latinx-led startups has never risen more than 5% in a single year. The law goes into effect on March 1, 2025. TechCrunch

Dynamic duo. TIAA CEO Thasunda Brown Duckett is no longer the sole Black female CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Earlier this month, Toni Townes-Whitley became the CEO of Science Applications International Corp., a Virginia-based tech company that supports government agencies, intelligence services, and the Department of Defense. Her appointment comes after the ​​August exit of Walgreens chief Roz Brewer. Fortune

Leaving showbiz. Hollywood has recently experienced an exodus of chief diversity officers, from Netflix to Disney to Warner Brothers Discovery. In an LA Times op-ed, the former diversity for the Oscars sheds light on the micro and macro aggressions that spurred her exit from the film academy, which has faced criticism for the lack of diversity among its award nominees. LA Times

The Big Think

Black Americans own less than 1% of rural land in the U.S. for a combined value of $14 billion. By contrast, white Americans own more than 98% of U.S. land for a combined value of $1 trillion. Yet in Texas’s Brazos Valley, Black-owned farmland is under siege by a duo who have weaponized arcane documents to acquire plots worth millions. Check out the fascinating and heart-wrenching read here

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