The Aspen Institute’s recently updated Beyond Grey Pinstripes, the list of top 100 top socially- and environmentally- conscious MBA programs, has generated a lot of interest in how business schools are (or are not) developing curriculum that will foster socially sustainable thinking. Fast Company recently interviewed Judy Samuelson, Aspen’s director of business and society, who said that, while b-schools are providing a more ethical and socially-conscious framework for students, in general, they’re still not leading. That may be true, but if anything, Beyond Grey Pinstripes shows that many business schools are starting to take the ideas of corporate social responsibility (CSR) seriously, and that many students are being exposed to this thinking throughout their MBA programs.
So, is this kind of thinking rubbing off on students?
A glance at some recent projects and startups created by MBA students and recent graduates shows that this new type of thinking is indeed having a positive effect, and may be influencing a new breed of businesses that are, through innovation and the adoption of traditional business principles, tackling social and environmental problems.
In a recent episode of Fox’s new sitcom The New Girl, Zooey Deschanel’s normally-frumpy character, Jess, is asked by a male roommate to accompany him as his date to a wedding in order to make his ex-girlfriend jealous. For the occasion, the male roommate tells Jess that she needs to wear a dress that will basically turn heads.
She does, and the episode descends into a zany, mischievous lark, where the ex-girlfriend does not get jealous, but rather happy that the male roommate has moved on and has apparently found somebody else. Jess’ experiences bring up the idea of “erotic capital” – that women (generally, although the concept can apply to men, too) can take advantage of their looks and sex appeal to persuade and coerce.
Catherine Hakim might say that Jess leveraged her erotic capital in an attempt to affect a social situation. Hakim is the author of Honey Money: The Power of Erotic Capital, a recent book that has been making waves among some book reviewers and social critics.
Is bigger necessarily better? BusinessWeek asked Doug Guthrie, the dean of George Washington University’s School of Business, if the size of a school’s program mattered. He responded by saying that it generally depends, and that larger programs can spread their message more effectively – but that in the end, a smaller class size is ultimately better because faculty can have closer and more intimate interaction with students.
Intuitively, this makes sense. A small number of people means more direct interaction, and more cohesion. But does a smaller class size make a difference in the long run – and is this effect quantifiable?
In a recent story in the Independent, Diane Morgan, the associate dean of the London Business School, said that she hopes to recruit more women in this year’s MBA recruitment process – so that women represent 30% of the total intake. While the increase is somewhat marginal (LBS’ percentage of women students is currently at 28%,) Morgan’s announcement does reflect a larger trend where business schools are beginning to appreciate the idea of gender diversity, and taking proactive steps to equalize the playing field.