In an interview with NPR’s 'All Things Considered' radio station, Wharton’s newly appointed dean Erika James said that the present lack of diversity in the business sector stems from a lack of prioritizing diversity.
James officially began her tenure as the 15th dean of the Wharton School on July 1 and is making history as the first woman and person of color to lead Wharton since its establishment in 1881. With NPR, James discussed how the business sector has been slow to reflect the gender and racial makeup of the United States.
“I think that if we can create social media platforms, if we can put people on the moon and if we can have self-driving cars, there’s very little that we can’t do," James told NPR. "So the fact that we have not yet created a more diverse work environment means that we simply haven’t prioritized it.”
James also discussed her research and personal experiences regarding challenges that women and people of color face in obtaining leadership positions in the workforce.
“There are structures in place that make it difficult for women and people of color to have exposure to opportunities within the organization. Folks of color generally have less access to mentors,” James said. “What I personally have also found was the need for me to take responsibility for my own success and progress within an organization.”
To conclude the interview, 'All Things Considered' radio program host Ari Shapiro asked James to give incoming students at Wharton a message regarding their responsibilities to build both successful and inclusive companies.
“Each generation is becoming more and more, not even cognizant or aware but the expectation that they have is that inclusivity is just the order of the day," James told Shapiro. "And they are looking and demanding of their current workforce or school to be inclusive. And that is happening from white students, from students of color, from women, from men. I just see they're a growing force where the expectation is that the organization they enter will be diverse and inclusive."