Market demand requires varied representation

TCU prides itself on recruiting students of high standards to develop them into future leaders in the global community.These are the same people that businesses hope to attract upon their graduation.

The issue is the changing face of business leadership and the concern about whether the student population is reflecting that demand.

As the consumer market in the United States becomes more diverse, whether that be ethnic, religious or gender diversity, businesses are taking notice and adjusting their ideals.

“It’s all about the pool of talent,” says Len Roberts, executive chairman of the Radio Shack Corp. “Restricting to the white Caucasian male restricts talent.”

The challenge for universities lies in preparing that future talent pool.

Jim Atwood, assistant to the dean of admissions, said TCU focuses on broadening the scope for which students can influence one another.

“When we talk about diversity, we’re not just talking about race or ethnicity,” Atwood said.

He said the focus is on accepting students from all across the United States and the world so students have the opportunity to compare different backgrounds and beliefs to their own.

“There are people here with different ideas and concepts,” Atwood said. “That is really what higher education is about.”

However, it is also about numbers, such as the percentage of minority students TCU admits and will train to be a part of the talent pool business leaders will select from.

At a rate of 14 percent minority students, according to the department of admissions, TCU is not as racially diverse as the surrounding city of Fort Worth.

“Fourteen percent is a good number,” Roberts said. “TCU is not a total vacuum.”

According to the city of Fort Worth’s census report, only 45 percent of the city’s population is white.

At TCU, numerous organizations and services on campus dedicate themselves to raising awareness of diversity issues and educating students and faculty in areas that will be of value upon graduation, when students enter the workforce and begin to associate with those of different backgrounds than their own.

President and Publisher of the Fort Worth Star Telegram Wes Turner said businesses have recognized the critical need for diverse work environments since he entered the business in the early 1970s.

“It is imperative that the workforce begin to resemble the community that the product or service is for, or you don’t have a chance to be successful,” Turner said.

Turner and Roberts are both involved in the North Texas BOLD Initiative, an organization founded four years ago that recruits prospective leaders for businesses in North Texas.

BOLD, or Business Opportunities for Leadership Diversity, focuses on helping companies to diversify their leadership in order to gain a competitive advantage on a global level.

Sixteen major corporations are a part of the BOLD Initiative, including American Airlines, Nokia and Lockheed Martin. The city of Fort Worth also participates.

The CEO team of the North Texas BOLD Initiative is comprised of 13 CEOs from North Texas companies, according to the BOLD Web site.

Those involved search out management talent in the community to interview. Superior candidates are placed in a database and introduced to the participating corporations.

“We have identified more top-notch candidates than we have jobs,” Turner said of the success of BOLD in only four years.

In a letter to the BOLD office, Fort Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief said, “The key to corporate success today and in the future is the hiring and retention of world class talent.”

Roberts said promoting diversity in business management positions was critical on two levels.

First, he said, diversity is important for marketing. Corporations require employees who the people they are trying to reach can relate to.

He said companies also understand the need to employ those with similar values that the company and other employees share.

As a result of these understandings, Roberts said a company that is white Caucasian is now becoming the minority.

Turner acknowledged the growing minority population, which is creating a much more diverse customer base that companies need to appeal to.

As businesses across North Texas continue to apply these principles to their business practices, campus programs are designed to educate students on their significance.

“In order for us to be competitive with other schools we need our students to be prepared,” said LaTanya Johns, associate director at university career services at the Neeley School of Business.

Johns said the importance of diversity to the TCU community is evident by the formation of the office of Inclusiveness and Intercultural Services, which opened this summer.

“I think that office is doing a great job,” Johns said.

The challenge of expanding the diversity of student populations is not unique to TCU.

“It’s a challenge that each university faces,” Turner said.

With the shifting demographics in the work community, Turner said it is the student’s responsibility to learn about changing populations.

“Diversity comes from being involved with, working with and knowing people other than those who look like you,” Turner said.

The changes in populations will have a more significant impact down the road.

“Texas is going to be a major Hispanic population,” Turner said.

Though members of the campus community say ethnic diversity is an ongoing challenge, Roberts said that TCU students have an advantage in one area of diversity: Males are a minority.

He said students can learn gender issues better as a result of attending a coed school. Traditionally, males have been the dominant gender in the business world.

Atwood said TCU is always working so that students will be prepared once they step off campus after graduation.

“We want to help people understand that TCU wants to not just be a Texas university, not just a U.S. university, but wants to have a global vision,” Atwood said.

The programs and offices at TCU aim to support that global vision.

“We are all products of our environment,” Turner said.

He said to be fully acclimated with the future of a diverse business staff, students would need to have been working with a range of others.

His advice to students was simply to get involved and work with those different from themselves.

“Awareness of the importance of diversity is critical,” Turner said.

Johns said TCU works hard to ensure students are aware of that importance.

“For the most part, TCU students are very involved in activities that bring them together with a lot of different people,” Johns said.

Atwood said the importance of recognizing the beliefs of others has an impact on the life of other students. He said beliefs students have upon entering TCU may be modified, confirmed or changed through interactions with others.