RacialEquity@Haas: Alankrita Dayal’s Racial Equity Journey and Invitation to Engage with the Authors

Guest Post Written by Alankrita Dayal

Alankrita Dayal is pursuing a double major in Computer Science and Business Administration, minors in Public Policy and South Asian Studies, and a certificate in Entrepreneurship and Technology at the University of California-Berkeley. She is a Fellow for Net Impact as well as College of Engineering’s Fung Fellowship for Technology and Wellness Innovations. Alankrita is extremely passionate towards finding data-driven solutions to better the lives of everyone in her community, and from an early age, she has been actively developing projects that allow her to utilize her technical talent, diversity, and strategic thinking in best doing so; she has been nationally recognized on multiple platforms for her extensive technical and leadership work. She also serves as the Board Director for the 96-unit Berkeley Student Cooperative and newly-elect President of Rochdale Village, working hard to voice policies and programs to benefit the diverse student body.

Racial Equity Journey

Issues of race, class, and culture often hinder the learning process, even in progressive learning environments, when left unattended by community leaders and members. It has truly been the most reflective journey, working on this blog series and opening up racial equity conversations. Through the Racial Equity@Haas blog series, I have been fortunate enough to form a palpable community discussion about the racial atmosphere in Berkeley, specifically within the Haas School of Business.

For as long as I can remember, I have advocated for equity in all dimensions of life. In hopes to catalyze critical thinking, self-inquiry, transformative learning, healing, and change when it comes to racial equity, I have actively designed projects that bring together a diverse range of populations in order to best tap into the deep human connection that we all share. I strongly believe in leveraging the power of dialogue to educate minds and open hearts.

Since the beginning of 2017, I have worked diligently alongside with my co-authors, Charlie James and Naayl Kazmi, to maximize our impact on racial equity in Haas and the wider community! Week after week, by presenting the diverse range of voices among the students, faculty, and administrators of the School, our Racial Equity@Haas blog series has been effectively serving as a means of publicly addressing barriers that have made this topic one that is too often overlooked and misunderstood. As a Net Impact Fellow since Fall 2016, I have had the splendid opportunity to participate in multiple such projects. More specifically, earlier this semester, I organized a Diversity in Academia Panel to initiate discussions regarding the importance of diversity and the need to raise awareness and take action regarding student equity concerns within the College of Engineering. I leveraged partnerships with multiple clubs and engineering professors to form a deep and personal equity-focused discussion. As Executive Director for Program yoUr Future (PUF) and Vice President for Robotics@Berkeley, I have focused my energy over the last 6+ months towards mentoring our undergrad/grad developers in creating educational technology to empower minority students underrepresented in the tech fields. In addition, my passion has fueled my contributions within the Racial Equity@Haas project to best provide a platform for racial equity learning and open dialogue. Through work in such projects, I have aimed to amplify the creativity that already exists within the Berkeley community in order to build stronger community networks, solve racial equity problems, and enhance the sense of comfort and acceptance in places that individuals live, study, work, and grow.

I am extremely excited to provide our community and student leaders with the language, frames, and tools necessary in creating inclusive environments as well as having constructive and productive conversations. In the City of Berkeley and the greater Bay Area, the Racial Equity@Haas project has widely enabled both young people and educators to take part in conversations and actions around how we can better empower students and staff from racially underrepresented backgrounds and create inclusive learning environments.

Invitation to Engage with the Authors

My co-authors and I would like to cordially invite the Berkeley community and the greater Bay Area to come have a discussion with us this Thursday, May 4th. We will be having a drop-in event from 1:30 to 3:00 PM at the Rochdale Village common room. The common room can be tricky to find, so I have attached a screenshot of a google map of Rochdale Village that has the pin on the common room:

RE@H Open Hours

We are very eager to have you with us this Thursday, and thank you for being a part of this journey!

Racial Equity@Haas: Blog Series Purpose, Reflection, & Impact

Charlie James is a senior at the Haas School of Business with a minor in Food Systems at the College of Natural Resources. He studies the intersection of business and food and enjoys learning of food businesses and venturing to understand what social, racial, cultural, historical, and economic circumstances provided their growth. With like-minded Haas students, Charlie began a food justice consulting student organization called FEED (Food, Equity, Entrepreneurship, & Development) to provide space for business students interested in pursuing a career in socially grounded food businesses. As the Chair of the Berkeley Food Institute (BFI) Undergraduate Advisory Council, he is working on developing a space for the undergraduate food community with student food organizations while nurturing room for their collaboration and ensuring their voices are heard at BFI. After studying at Haas, Charlie plans to study abroad in Japan and move in with his Grandmother and Uncle who own and manage a farm in the rural urban mix of the city of Odawara. He’s driven to learn the Japanese language fluently and understand the culture intimately in order to communicate with his relatives there and support his Grandmother and Uncle with their farm. For fun, he loves watching anime with close ones, experimenting with cooking recipes, and engaging in uncomfortable but important conversations.

Blog Series Purpose, Reflection, and Impact

Diversity is often mistaken for racial equity, especially in most business schools. Diversity resides in representation of people of various backgrounds. While diversity is important, it is surface level. Racial equity calls forth reparations to unequal beginnings through not only representation but also social, political, legal, moral, economic, and cultural rectification. Racial equity runs deep as it necessitates a change of thinking and acting to nurture an inclusive culture for people from all racial backgrounds where conversations on race are not neglected but encouraged.

However, before we can begin to address the misunderstanding of racial equity as diversity, it’s important to begin conversations on race, which are hard to come by at most business schools. They are especially hard to initiate. It is for this reason that I began a blog series aimed at opening the culture of the Haas School of Business to conversations on race. While the end goal runs much deeper in developing a social justice consciousness that includes more identities than only race to inform actions and decisions, talking about race honestly and openly is a start.

To maximize the impact, I joined forces with another Racial Equity Fellow for Net Impact, Alankrita Dayal, and a fellow Haas student dedicated to our mission, Naayl Kazmi. We began a blog series called Racial Equity@Haas, which we were able to publish through the Haas Undergraduate Student Blog thanks to its open and considerate leaders, Katherine Krive and Lexa Gundelach.

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Collectively, we created a game plan to interview the professors of core classes Haas students are required to take in order to illuminate the professors views on racial equity; we thought students would be more prone to read interviews from people in power they already know, core professors. However, only a few professors agreed to undergo interviews, leaving our plan at a loss. In recovery, we opened up the blog series to hold interviews of anyone in the Haas community as to shed light on the diverse perspectives of community members, students, staff, professors, and even the dean, on how racial equity is perceived at Haas.

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We’ve since interviewed three professors, three students, and the Dean of Haas. Much of the learning came to me during interviewing the different community members. The Dean illuminated how the history of Haas has shifted to being more diverse over the years, and an interview with one of the professors by Naayl revealed the impact of Proposition 209, which nullified affirmative action, on the few Haas students of color at the time. Seeing the school from a historical perspective, there was much improvement in fact. Still, race is not something openly talked about, is hard to talk about, and often triggers students to change the topic.

I remember engaging students on conversations on race and having them look the other way, change the topic almost immediately, or even look at me as though I’m racist for even talking about race. While these reactions will persist among certain groups, there are students who encourage me to continue.

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I share all the blog posts we make on Facebook while tagging members of the blog in them and my small team of Naayl and Alankrita to reach a larger audience, and there has been thankful, empowering, and even revealing feedback. One student who was interviewed wasn’t comfortable in having the person’s name referenced in the blog post, so we posted it as anonymous. Once on Facebook, another Haas student said she would have done the same.

While conversations often still focus on diversity instead of on nurturing an inclusive culture that would encourage conversations and consciousness building on race, this blog has began a conversation on race that’s heading in the direction of a more inclusive business culture. Although there’s a long way to go, I am happy we are going.

Racial Equity@Haas: 3rd Year Haas Undergraduate – Jose Luis Ramos Mora

Guest Post Written by Alankrita Dayal.

This Racial Equity@Haas blog series written by three Haas students (Charlie James, Alankrita Dayal, and Naayl Kazmi) is providing the space for us to meet our core principles of being Students Always, Beyond Ourselves, and Questioning the Status Quo by opening the conversation on race, how it manifests in business, and its broader implications. We’re asking four questions to members of the Haas community in order to illuminate how racial equity in business and Haas is conceived and to stir an open conversation.

Jose Luis Ramos Mora is a third-year transfer business administration major. During the past year, he has been the treasurer for the Cal Veterans Group and the Homeless Student Union. He is also a fellow in the Fung Fellowship for Wellness and Technology Innovations. He likes to walk the long way to class because it is the most scenic route. Jose likes to watch a lot of Netflix on his free time. Favorite shows consist of How I Met Your Mother, Friday Night Lights, and The Office. After graduation, he hopes to work for nonprofits that focus on higher education for low income communities. He hopes to one day start his own nonprofit organization. This summer he will most likely be taking summer classes and planning a trip to Costa Rica with friends from his time in the Marine Corps.

Q1) What is Racial Equity to You?

Racial equality to me means having the same opportunities as the person next to you without having race come into play, having to act a certain way because that is the way it is seen as professional. I believe there are many great qualities every race brings to the table and they should be accepted in a professional setting. Myself and certain friends act a certain way in professional settings and are overly conscious about everything we say and do because we are afraid of being perceived as the typical Mexican person or typical black person.

Q2) How do you find Racial Equity Important to Business?

I think it is very important because in the business world, it is crucial to have the experience and different perspectives that a diverse racial workforce brings to the table. In business, as in many other situations, it is critical to demonstrate your company or organization takes into consideration all the clients best interests and needs. This can best be achieved by having racial equality all throughout the company.

Q3) In Your Perception, How is Haas on Racial Equity?

Haas does a good job because all the administration and professors I have encountered acknowledge there is a racial discrepancy when it comes to education and race. Many business classes don’t take into consideration this inequality because it doesn’t fit with a lot of the business theories that are studied but nonetheless the professors for the most part acknowledge it exists.

Q4) Please Add a Personal Anecdote on Racial Equity.

Racial equality has a lot to do with the way you look. I remember checking into the USCIS building in Los Angeles, when I was about 18 years old, with my sister. We were standing in line and talking to each other in English. The guard that was doing the security check told me in broken Spanish to please take off my belt and any metal objects I had on me. Then he proceeded to tell my sister the same thing but in English. It is small things like these that make me realize I am stereotyped anywhere I go. I have also been stopped for no reason and asked for my ID while walking down the street and I have also been stopped in my vehicle because I was in a “drug dealing” neighborhood. At that time I did not think anything of these encounters but the more I meet other people, that don’t look like me, the more I realize they have never experienced these situations and the more I realize I look different. I am ok with it because I know I am not only proving something to myself and those people that assume certain things about me based on my looks, but I am also proving something to that 18-year-old Hispanic kid that is going through the same experiences I went through at his age and that is far more important than anything else.

Racial Equity@Haas: Core Professor – Andy Shogan (UGBA 104)

This Racial Equity@Haas blog series written by three Haas students (Charlie James, Alankrita Dayal, and Naayl Kazmi) is providing the space for us to meet our core principles of being Students Always, Beyond Ourselves, and Questioning the Status Quo by opening the conversation on race, how it manifests in business, and its broader implications. We’re asking Four questions to members of the Haas community in order to illuminate how racial equity in business and Haas is conceived and to stir an open conversation.

ANDREW (Andy) SHOGAN joined the faculty of the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley after receiving an A.B. in Mathematics from Princeton University and a Ph.D. in Operations Research from Stanford University. At the Haas School, Andy served several times as chair of the Operations & Information Technology Group, and, during the period 1991-2007, he served as the Haas School’s Associate Dean for Instruction. In 2007, Andy was awarded the Chancellor’s Distinguished Service Award for his long-time service to both Haas and the University. For his teaching, Andy twice received the Haas School’s Cheit Award for Teaching Excellence (once from the Full-Time MBA students and once from the Part-Time MBA students), and he received the campus-wide Distinguished Teaching Award from the University’s faculty. Andy taught a variety of executive education programs in the United States, China, Thailand, Taiwan, Jamaica, Mexico, and Switzerland. Andy and his wife of 44 years are both natives of Pittsburgh, PA, now reside in Orinda, CA, and have 3 sons, 2 daughters-in-law, and 3 grandchildren.

Q1) What is Racial Equity to You?

“I think it’s almost self-defining; it’s that every race has equal opportunity to everything: education, a path to upward mobility, freedom of movement. There’s an expectation that you won’t be denied anything because of your race, just like religious equity, or any other kind of equity.”

Q2) How do you find Racial Equity Important to Business?

“Most companies are either making a product or providing a service, and from a business perspective, they have to figure out how to market themselves to a variety of racially-diverse market segments. Take a company that – let’s just say – sells milk. You sell milk to Hispanics in a different way than you sell milk to Caucasians. You have to understand that there is a different marketing technique, a different way you structure your ads. Today you see on TV that there are much more diverse people in the ads, and also ads that target a particular race. Similarly on the service side, you still have to understand that the way you reach a particular customer differs by race, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. Every culture has a different way of perceiving things and I think a business needs to understand that to prosper. Even if it’s a non-profit or a foundation, it should still recognize that soliciting donations from one culture is different from soliciting donations from another culture. Another basic idea is that businesses need to understand how to best sell their product or service to different cultures, and the only way to understand that is to have a diverse workforce. For example, the Trump administration – there are a lot of ways to criticize it but one of the obvious reasons is that it’s a bunch of old white men sitting around making policies about race and about what women can and can’t do with their bodies and about services to Planned Parenthood and things like that. That’s just the most obvious example, but that example carries down to a business. If I’m Uber, on the service side, or am selling milk, on the product side, I’ve got to have a diverse workforce if I’m going to be a successful business.

Beyond that, there’s the problem of retaining a racially-diverse workforce. A woman I know works for a non-profit that’s struggling with that issue. She’s the HR Director and she’s having trouble retaining minorities. She wants desperately to keep them, but they say, ‘I feel uncomfortable since when I look around, I only see one of me, or I only see two of me, and there are hundreds of other people out there.” You’ve got to retain a critical mass; it’s not enough to hire a racially-diverse workforce. After hiring a racially-diverse workforce, you must create a work environment that fosters the retention of the racially-diverse workforce.”

Q3) In Your Perception, How is Haas on Racial Equity?

“There are at least three levels to that. I see the school both from where I am now and from where I used to be; I was the Associate Dean here for 17 years from the ‘90s to 2007, so I had a lot of administrative responsibilities. I still see the school at the student level, the staff level, and the faculty level. Let’s take those one at a time:
At the student level, Berkeley does good job, but its hands are tied in so many ways by laws that the state must follow, but at least there are students of all races here, but obviously, I’d like to see more with respect to the non-Caucasian races. Going back many years, we were able to admit using race more than we can today to have the diversity that we wanted; the laws passed since then tie our hands a lot. Given that, I think we do as well as we can in generating a group of undergraduate students that are as racially diverse as the laws currently permit.

At the staff level, I think we do an excellent job. If you look at the staff that serves the school at the undergraduate level, the MBA level, the PhD level, supports the faculty and so on, you see a diversity that is excellent.

I think where Haas does worse is at the faculty level. If you look at the faculty, who you see in the classroom, they are not nearly as diverse as it should be. At the undergraduate student level, we’re hamstrung by the laws; at the faculty level, we’re hamstrung by the pipeline, meaning we can only hire what is presented to us, so if there are not enough women getting PhDs, then we can’t hire enough women. Now on the women side I think Haas is doing excellent, but when it comes to persons of color, I think it’s fair to say that our faculty is not as diverse as it SHOULD be, but I think it’s fair to say it’s about as diverse as it CAN be, and the problem there is that we don’t see enough diverse candidates getting PhDs that we can hire from. To be a University like Berkeley, we have to hire excellent faculty; we’re allowed to look everywhere and we cast as broad a net as we can, and if we see a diverse candidate, we will do our best to include that person in the subset of people we interview, but we can only do that if that diverse person is in the system and chooses to apply to our job offers. What we see unfortunately in my field, finance, or accounting as examples is not enough diverse candidates in the applicant pool that we can invite for an interview and who then can survive the interview process and get hired. A nationwide problem for all business schools is to find ways to encourage many more persons of color to enter PhD programs in business and aspire to be faculty members.

How do we do at Haas? At the undergraduate student level, I think we do the best we can under the law. How do we do at the staff level? I think we do an excellent job at the staff level. How do we do at the faculty level? I think we do as well as we can given the lack of diversity in the pipeline of candidates.”

Q4) Please Add a Personal Anecdote on Racial Equity.

“On a personal level, I’ve noticed in my own teaching that I always tend to use Caucasian names when I’m writing examples. I’ve become sensitive to men versus women, so I’ll have just as many women if I’m inventing a problem as men, or I’ll try to say ‘she’ as often as I say ‘he’ when I’m talking about a manager, but when I go back to look at my notes, it’s always John and Michael and Sarah and Ashley or whatever, the names you typically associate with Caucasians. One of the things I’ve started to do is to go back and change my notes so that I have just as many Asian names and Hispanic names and so on. I find myself actually looking up what are some common names – obviously I see the names in my list of students and so on, but I find myself going to Google and saying, for example, ‘Okay, here are a list of Hispanic male names and Hispanic female names,” and trying to go back, while it’s a slow process, and change my notes so that hopefully two or three years from now when you look at my notes you’ll see just as many person-of-color names instead of my old notes that were dominated by Caucasian names.”

Racial Equity@Haas: 4th Year Haas Undergraduate – Abigail Balingit

This Racial Equity@Haas blog series written by three Haas students (Charlie James, Alankrita Dayal, and Naayl Kazmi) is providing the space for us to meet our core principles of being Students Always, Beyond Ourselves, and Questioning the Status Quo by opening the conversation on race, how it manifests in business, and its broader implications. We’re asking Four questions to members of the Haas community in order to illuminate how racial equity in business and Haas is conceived and to stir an open conversation.

Abigail Balingit is a fourth year Business Administration and Media Studies double major. During this past year, she was an Arts & Entertainment Reporter for the Daily Californian. Balingit enjoys long walks to FIFO and also listening to Drake on the way to class. After graduation, She will hopefully be employed somewhere in marketing and advertising, and she will be going to New York during the summer with her family.

Q1) What is Racial Equity to You?

“Racial equity is kind of seeing people of all different walks of life and different communities, whether that be African American, Asian American, or international communities. I think that it’s important to see that America is not really a melting pot, but a salad bowl made up of different people represented in a community. I could say racial equity is racial equality in a sense; that’s what I think it means.”

Q2) How do you find Racial Equity Important to Business?

“I think it’s super important right off the bat. If a company or organization doesn’t have the best diversity or if you don’t see other people besides one certain race, what other or different perspectives will you gain? – especially in business where I feel it affects so many other people besides just the direct consumers, direct suppliers, or employers. I think it’s important to know that in surveying a community or even – in a profit sense – trying to increase profits, a business should not exclude entire different groups of people from that whole process.

Q3) In Your Perception, How is Haas on Racial Equity?

“I would say I feel like there are efforts to increase people of different backgrounds in the community, which I feel personally that I am part of – I used to be in Partnership for Pre-Professional Philipinxs. There are also other groups on campus like HUBBA, LBSA, which I think do a great job in trying to integrate people within the business community. But I definitely do think it would be nice to see more diversity. I definitely think there could be a lot more representation at Haas.

With the immigration ban that happened earlier this past semester, it would be great in the business community, within Haas especially, to shed more light on the different experiences of people from different backgrounds that do come to study at Haas and to actually highlight and stand in solidarity with that cause of resisting the immigration ban. I think it’s important to do more; I mean they’re doing stuff, but I want to see more personally.”

Additional question) What would “doing more” look like to you?

“Even in my own personal experience, there aren’t many other people who are Filipino American – I literally know two other people at Haas that are. It’s really difficult not seeing more people of color being represented as they could be because there are a lot of different kinds of people at Haas – there are athletes, people in all different kinds of organizations. It would be nice just to see more people that can understand where you’re coming from to be in that space too. Not just for me, but for other communities as well that are underrepresented minorities, it’s tough when you feel like you’re having your community on your back almost, like you have to hold that weight on your own. For me it’s kind of difficult when I don’t have a lot of people from the Filipino community to talk to.”

Q4) Please Add a Personal Anecdote on Racial Equity.

“I took UGBA 105 Leading People and we talked about how it’s hard when we face different conflicts in the workplace, especially harassment – those are the really touchy topics as well as how to deal with those scenarios in real life. But I remember vividly in class asking something along the lines, ‘if someone is putting you down because of the color of your skin or where you come from but it’s not an outward slap in the face, how do you address that?’ It was a question I posed to the Professor, which I identified to the class as microaggressions. It was difficult to talk about these things, especially in Haas where we talk about stuff like accounting and how to increase profits, but she asked if I could explain that to the class, but it’s almost so hard – I think microaggressions are one of the hardest things to explain especially.

For me, my background was like – I came from a low-income background; in high school, it was like the minority-was-the-majority kind of experience for when I was growing up in Stockton. It was really weird because I kind of put a halo on Berkeley – I think of the halo effect – like it would have the most diverse people from everywhere and that everyone would be woke. That’s what I always thought, but going in, it was a little different because I totally saw that – where I come from is like a bubble – and then here it’s like, while there is so much diversity and that so many people come from different countries, I definitely saw more of what America looks like – you know – a majority white, and less people of color. I did for the first time feel like a minority, especially in times of snide remarks and light things that made me feel kind of ignored, which is really hard since I didn’t even know how to say these things. For instance, when we were looking at scenarios in Leading People; it’s just like what do you say when your co-worker kind of makes fun of your food or something. There are definitely degrees of racial inequity but sometimes it’s to the extent where sometimes it just feels like you’re getting put down. It’s kind of an insidious feeling where you don’t even realize it for a long time until you think about it for a while.”


Racial Equity@Haas: Core Professor – Krystal Thomas (UGBA 100)

Guest Post Written by Naayl Kazmi.

This Racial Equity@Haas blog series written by three Haas students (Charlie James, Alankrita Dayal, and Naayl Kazmi) is providing the space for us to meet our core principles of being Students Always, Beyond Ourselves, and Questioning the Status Quo by opening the conversation on race, how it manifests in business, and its broader implications. We’re asking Four questions to members of the Haas community in order to illuminate how racial equity in business and Haas is conceived and to stir an open conversation.

Krystal Jalene Thomas is a lecturer with the undergraduate program at UC Berkeley – Haas, and an alumna from 1994. Her professional experiences range from change management consulting with Accenture, to strategic marketing, to media, where she helms her own content development and production company, Pooka Ventures. Professor Thomas has a BS/BA from UC Berkeley and an MFA from USC’s School of Cinematic Arts.

Responses have been abridged for length and clarity.

Q1) What is racial equity to you?

“Racial equity as a whole is hope, a goal. Part of the problem is that we, as a society, don’t have a common sense of what is equal.  That’s why we’re having this discussion to begin with.

Personally, I think the promise of racial equity is what MLK talked about – the moment where all people will be ‘judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin.’  I don’t want to be solely defined by race, gender, or other labels we are so quick to impose. I’d rather be seen for my contributions, my humanity, my actions, my spirit. Labels reduce individuality to stereotypes. Once typed, you’re left with one of two positions:  assume the stereotype or fight the stereotype. Either way, a typed person never gets a fair chance to fully express who they are in the world. So, to sum up – I see racial equity as an abstract concept, best expressed in Dr. King’s hope of an equity that transcends superficial markers.”

Q2) In your perception, how is Haas on matters of racial equity?

“As a student at Cal in the 90’s, the diversity of the campus was the most transformative aspect of my college experience. I used to say it was like ‘going to Howard in the middle of Harvard’. The numbers spoke for themselves back then: around 15% Asian (depending on how you define Asian), 8% African American, 4-6% Latinx, and international students comprising 25% of the student body. I have friends now in Uruguay, because I met someone from that tiny South American country back in undergrad. So, it hurts my heart as a professional faculty member today to not see that kind of representation, or to see certain populations be the only face in class. At my time at Haas, I was never the only African American student in any class. The reason it hurts my heart is because people come to Berkeley, specifically, on a journey to figure out who they are and define themselves as individuals. You can’t fully walk that path if you’re not exposed to the world you are defining yourself in.

In my own life, I was one of 13 African Americans in a high school of 3200 in Huntington Beach, California.  During that time in my life, I always felt out of place because I was constantly considered an exception. In school, I was ‘the articulate black girl’ but my extended family felt I ‘acted too white.’ Berkeley was the first place I ever felt like a whole person. And then to discover courses like African American Studies 1A, my world just opened. I would’ve never had that opportunity if I hadn’t been at Berkeley when Professor Roy Thomas could call up Angela Davis and say ‘Hey, come talk to my class!’ – those were the kind of Berkeley experiences that shaped me. As the daughter of an international businessman, I spoke multiple languages. So, the opportunity to just go hang out in a Chicano class – and hear from my Latinx contemporaries about the politics of language, for example, wouldn’t have happened at any other college. Today, I try my best to bring diverse perspectives back into the classroom to pay forward the Berkeley experience.

Moving back to your question in regards to Haas, many of those shaping the vision of the undergraduate program today were connected to Berkeley in the 90’s and saw the impact of Prop 209.  I’m very confident in Haas leadership because it’s made of individuals who understand how we’ve evolved. We can’t solve a racial equity problem, as you’re terming it, without understanding how we got there. Programs crafted by leaders like Dr. Erika Walker, or Dean Lyons are rethinking what it means to be diverse. Consider a simple act like the defining four principles of Haas. Such an innovative move cultivates the seeds for emphasizing individuality, content, and character, allowing for a more holistic assessment of the kinds of people associated with Haas without discrediting the experiences shaped by anyone’s gender, race, age or socioeconomic status.

Like many alumna from my era, I held emotional scars from racial debates impacting California educational policies. I distinctly remember an incident at Berkeley, when an Asian male student told me that I’d likely taken the place of his more qualified Asian friend because of affirmative action. But when I actually listed my accomplishments and qualifications from high school, his response was like ‘oh, well maybe you do belong here.’  I share this not to debate affirmative action or Prop 209, but more to express the emotional impacts of policy. For many of us, it felt like they didn’t want us here – that we hadn’t earned the right to be here. For quite a few years after graduation, my attitude towards Berkeley was – ‘Don’t call me for money, don’t reach out for my support; if you don’t believe in my value, then – deuces!’  It was my best friend from Cal, also an African American who said to me, ‘if you feel that strongly about it, go back and work to change things.’ So, when you talk about how things are today, you can’t ignore the emotional impacts. Our Haas leadership today recognizes the pain of that period and is demonstrably committed to creating a culture where everyone is respected and belongs.”

Q3) How do you find racial equity important to business? 

“Businesses are microcosms of the society and the environments they operate in. Today’s world is more global and connected than ever before. To stay competitive, businesses have to be exposed to diverse environments and ways of thinking.  Race, gender, and age are elements that form our reality, and shape our perspectives as individuals. Differentiation in product, brand, positioning, culture, and market comes from distinct perspectives. Native understanding of problems, gaps and opportunities generate stronger business solutions.  You can’t grow by staying static, or unearth the next product or disruption if everyone in an organization thinks the same way or shares only one similar experience. In short, companies that reflect the world they serve, win.”

Q4) Parting thoughts?

“As a school and a workplace, Berkeley is one of the most committed organizations to diversity I’ve ever encountered. Although discussions about this topic can be challenging, Berkeley and Haas remain committed to having the conversations, which is half the battle. In fact, I think a role of Cal in the world is to talk about these kinds of things and spark meaningful dialogue.

The movements on this campus are often decades ahead of the mainstream zeitgeist, from the civil rights and free speech movement, to sexual identity and gender equity, to the myriad of conversations happening today. Diversity, of all kinds, is something people care about here, and that authentic spirit creates a culture where the fullest expression of personal identity has a chance to be realized.”

Thank you.



Racial Equity@Haas: Dean – Richard Lyons

This Racial Equity@Haas blog series written by three Haas students (Charlie James, Alankrita Dayal, and Naayl Kazmi) is providing the space for us to meet our core principles of being Students Always, going Beyond Ourselves, and Questioning the Status Quo by advancing the conversation on race, how it manifests in business, and its broader implications. We’re asking Four questions to members of the Haas community to illuminate how racial equity in business and Haas is conceived and to stir an open conversation.

Q1) What is Racial Equity to You?

“When we think about all people being created equal, which in this country is sort of line one, what does that mean in terms of justice societally, how we think about, and how we organize the society? When I first read your question, the actual thought that came to mind was from a Bob Marley song where he sings, ‘Until the color of a man’s skin is of no more significance than the color of his eyes.’ Phrases like that I think help us to understand what racial equity is, which is recognizing that all people are created equal; it’s actually hard to find somebody who disagrees with that phrase. Racial equity is also about recognizing that implicit bias is all around us, which it is if we’re going to be honest. The ideal of the color of one’s skin having no more significance than the color of one’s eyes is what we’re shooting for.”

Q2) How do you find Racial Equity Important to Business?

“This is a really big question. I’m going to take this one back to first principles in asking, ‘What problem is business trying to solve?’ Organizations, companies succeed in this economy not by being the same as other organizations. They succeed by being usefully different. When they are the same, they don’t last very long; so if you are a leader of an organization, or designing one, or just thinking about what fit organizations look like in an evolutionary sense, you need them to produce this useful differentness faster. How do they become usefully different faster? You don’t become usefully different faster by hiring a bunch of like-minded people and putting them in a room and hoping that you’ll get a different, creative solution. That’s not the right way to do it. This isn’t about race per se; it’s about making sure that different perspectives — that people coming at different opportunities or challenges from different angles — is the way you get great solutions. It’s really non-discretionary. You have to do those things and there’s research that backs that. The most fundamental value-creating thing that groups, organizations, people in the business world do is to become usefully different faster, and race plays — as other elements of difference do — a fundamental role. Another element of that is people: if consumers can’t see representations of themselves in the organizations they do business with, they’re going to be less likely to do business with them. We’re getting more and more of that sentiment, and that’s a trend I believe will continue. The economic pain of not running business this way is going up, and that’s a good thing.”

Q3) In Your Perception, How is Haas on Racial Equity?

“I think modern institutions of all kinds have a long way to go if we’re going to be honest. That’s a very general statement, but I believe it to be true. To give you a small example, we were talking about a case that one of our faculty teaches; we actually got together, the tenured faculty at Berkeley-Haas got together for an hour and a half about three weeks ago, and the topic was race and gender in the classroom. How do we manage those discussions and how do we get better at having those conversations? Because students want it, they deserve it, and it’s hard. So it was peer-to-peer, tough topic, let’s have the conversation. One of the examples that was used in that session – one of the faculty members in the discussion said, ‘I teach a case where one of the protagonists is African American,’ and for that protagonist there was a little section, like three sentences, where there is a group or club or an affinity group of black Americans in that company that would get together for various things. The case has this protagonist going to another meeting with some of these other folks who they just had a prior meeting with, but they felt uncomfortable walking through the lobbies as a group of black men and women. Some took the elevator, some took the staircase, they distributed themselves. If you are white, that idea never crosses your mind. The faculty member said, ‘The first time I taught it, I didn’t discuss that, and the next time I taught it, I raised it, and somebody said I feel that way in my company today.’ (This was a case that might’ve been ten years ago.) Then somebody else in the class said, ‘I feel that way at Haas.’ You have a conversation like that and the scales come down off your eyes; you hear people say that, chills down your spine, and you say, ‘thank you for saying that ‘cause I don’t see that.’ The person wasn’t saying that Haas is a massively discriminatory place. It was just a thought that enters your mind if you’re from one of those identity groups and people not from one of those identity groups don’t ever have to think that way; but we need to know that other people do and that it’s natural.

Long answer to a good question, but if you asked me about specific improvements, I’d add that we joined the Consortium for graduate management education, which basically doubled the percentage of people of color in our full-time MBA program. In the time of my deanship, we added about a million and a half dollars a year for fellowships that went into the Consortium, but that’s just money; there are many other things you have to do. We launched for undergraduates something called SIEML (Summer Institute for Emerging Managers and Leaders) with five other UC business schools (UC has 10 campuses but 6 business schools), and all of the students in the first class or two in the program were all from HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities). Now there are HSIs (Hispanic Serving Institution) and others involved, but the focus was HBCUs initially. The idea was that these were undergrads at HBCUs, Freshmen and Sophomores who were not business majors, and we were introducing them both to business and the UC system, hopefully to get them to choose to come to California to get an MBA. It was valuable in its own right, but part of what we hoped to do was to open the pool even wider for our own schools. Anyways, that’s one initiative, and joining the Consortium is one initiative. When you add it all up, I believe that we’re very clearly more intentional now than we were, 10, 15, 20 years ago, and we still have further to go.”

Q4) Please Add a Personal Anecdote on Racial Equity.

“There are two quick ones that I’ll offer. One is of when I first became acting Dean for one year before becoming the Dean officially. The prior Dean — absolutely terrific person and Dean — he and I had different views on Proposition 209 (amended to the California Constitution in 1996 to prohibit public institutions from showing any preference for anybody based on race, sex, or ethnicity) in a particular way, on what we call Affinity Calling Programs. If we’ve admitted an African American to our undergraduate program or to our MBA program, or anyone from an under-represented group, we would have somebody from that same identity group who’s a current student call that person and say, ‘you’ve got to come,’ if there’s still a choice on the table. That’s part of our recruiting effort. My predecessor again, outstanding man, he felt that the Affinity Calling Program was inconsistent with Proposition 209 and he didn’t feel comfortable doing it. When I became acting Dean, I looked at that and said at worst, that’s in a grey area, but it’s a very light shade of grey, so I said, ‘I’m re-instituting the Affinity Calling Program.’ I felt it was in this institution’s and in California’s best interest  — you’ve got to make the call; if you have a point-of-view, you’re the Dean, what are you going to do? I came in, I changed it. Anyways, that’s anecdote number one.

Number two, I grew up in the Bay Area, Los Altos, and I came to Berkeley as an undergrad. The high school that I went to, Los Altos High School, was a public high school, but suburban in a relatively affluent community. There was one African American in my class of four hundred. I grew up in that environment; I didn’t know how skewed that was. She, Joanne, was a friend of mine; we did stuff together, but you don’t realize until your world widens sometimes just how narrow your prior world was; and then you come to Berkeley and then your world widens and you start to realize, ‘Wow, in some dimensions I had it about right, but in this dimension there was a lot of stuff I didn’t see.’ That’s one of those moments when you kind of reflect on, ‘Alright, I have some updating to do; I have some seeing to do,’ and so that was one of the things I sometimes mention when people talk about having honest conversations about race. I realized that I come from a history where this is not a natural conversation, and I completely agree that we need to have the conversation.”