Professional and Business Career of Black MBA Graduates

Base Theory

Affirmative action as it stands in the professional and business sphere has generated a wide spectrum of controversy. Antipathetic views have flourished over the years arguing that African American graduates should receive similar treatment and meet the standard criteria for admission into business organizations. The inimical perspective is that affirmative action in a sense gradually introduces reverse discrimination against the majority. “Those who believe Affirmative Action’s time is limited are of three minds. Some believe that discontinuing affirmative action would be a mistake-whenever that might be. Others see discontinuation is long over due. Still others see affirmative action as a current necessity whose life expectancy is limited.” (Roosevelt, 2004, p.2)

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This dissertation will primarily deal with the conceptualization of affirmative action and the basis as to which it is applied in regards to African American MBA graduates pursuing professional and business careers. This dissertation will as a result be conducted in line with affirmative action implications on the didactic and career developments among African Americans. This dissertation will also examine business organizations in relation to affirmative action and draw attention to the measures and processes that organizations have undertaken to comply with affirmative action.

These measures and processes will also be analyzed in order to perceive the potential benefit they bear upon African American MBA graduates. Furthermore, this dissertation will look at the competitive or elite schools’ role in providing quality knowledge and skills, and how these skills are relevant in securing a profession. To better understand the impact of affirmative action; historical and current sources will be used to enhance the evaluation.

The research will examine the career progression of African American business students who attended business schools in the United States of America in light of affirmative action. According to (Austin, 2008, p.1); “there was a significant economic progress among the African American from mid 1990s. By the year 2000, the median black household had climbed to its highest level ever, while black unemployment and poverty rates had declined to their lowest levels on record.” Corresponding to Austin’s statement, this dissertation will focus on how affirmative action would affect the choice of African American’s professional and business careers and also their eventual success.

A Brief background

Various studies have been carried out to determine the employment rate of African American men. According to (HJKF, 2006, p. 1), “It was established that African Americans were the nation’s most unemployed groups and were the most disproportionately represented in the professional field”. African Americans were also the least appreciated individuals at the workplace and were unlikely to be promoted to managerial posts even with the necessary MBA qualifications. As stated by (Chima & Wharton, 1999, p.2), “Discrimination, though practiced by individuals, is often reinforced by the well-established rules, policies, and practices of organizations”.

This means that once employed, discrimination at the organizational level results in advancement difficulties for African Americans; they do not seem to get the same opportunities for promotion and advancement to supervisory, middle management, and higher administrative positions as Caucasians of equal abilities. Qualified African Americans and other minorities are routinely passed over for jobs and promotions in favor of less qualified Caucasian males. To add on, most high paying positions remain occupied by Caucasian males.

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However, with the increasing call for affirmative action and equality, the representation of African Americans in senior management and the rate of promotions increased from 1993 as identified by a study carried out by United States Government Accountability Office (GOA). Studies carried out by GOA from 1993 through 2004 revealed that there were increased promotions among African American MBA graduates. “During that period, EEO-1 data show that management-level representation by minority women and men increased from 11.1 percent of all industry management-level positions to 15.5 percent. Specifically, African-Americans increased their management-level representation from 5.6 percent to 6.6 percent…” (GOA, 2006, p.3).

Affirmative action in entrepreneurship and profession

Several studies and surveys have been conducted by The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) to establish the career initiation and progress among minority groups especially African Americans. Studies and surveys such as the Registrant Survey and the Global MBA Graduate Survey have given insight into the manner in which African American MBA graduates acquire and secure successful professions in the business field. The results of these surveys have bore monumental success and it is now known that many companies and organizations use these surveys to hire and retain African MBA graduates in order to conform to affirmative action policies.

These studies have provided a means by which to gauge the impact of affirmative action in the professional and career field of African American MBA graduates. Several applications of affirmative action can be identified through historically analyzing these studies and the benefit that has been awarded to African American graduates (McCoy, F. 1995, p.56). By analyzing the business and professional aspect of these graduates, two distinct fields come into focus, entrepreneurship and professional employment.

Entrepreneurship in African American MBA graduates

The knowledge and skill acquired in the MBA program plays a vital role in helping these individuals run and maintain a successful business. These academic skills are however not sufficient to ensure the survival of their business, and therefore several other factors have to be considered. The first factor is the target market, which is an enormous inhabitant to the prosperity of an emerging African American business. Because African American graduates tend to focus on minority as their target market and consequently, their businesses are locked out of the larger market (Edgington & Marshall, 2005, p.1).

Sufficient initial capital is also vital in ensuring that an emerging business is able to sustain the preliminary losses and this means that most entrepreneurs have to suffer in order to establish their business (Edgington & Marshall, 2005, p.1). Such expenses include, but not limited to advertising, gift hampers, reduced product prices, customer bonuses, promotions and labor. “African American graduates however lack access to adequate funds to facilitate their entrepreneurial ambition and the few that start collapse within a short period of time” (Edgington & Marshall, 2005, p.1).

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Affirmative action has however helped to reverse the rising trend in collapsing businesses owned by African American MBA graduates through several ways. To begin with, affirmative action has been primarily responsible for the increase of the number of African Americans being admitted into MBA programs (Edgington & Marshall, 2005, p.2).

A supporting registrant survey conducted between June 1990 and March 1991 revealed that the number of applications submitted by African Americans to business schools was almost similar to the number submitted by white applicants. However, the average score of African Americans was 79 points lower to that of the whites meaning more than 40% of African Americans with low points applied for admission in elite schools (Dugan et al, 2003, p.12). “The admission rate was almost the same with Blacks having 70% and whites having 71% of all applications being accepted” (Dugan et al, 2003, p.13).

Additionally, affirmative action has helped African American MBA graduates access key startup capital in order to initiate and comfortable drive their business. A series of studies conducted by U.S Census Bureau revealed that African Americans with MBA qualifications were more likely to access loans and supporting assistance in business startup from financial institutions (USCB, 2002). Moreover, the studies revealed that the number of African Americans who had acquired loans from financial institutions to start their business had exponentially raised since1994 (Butler & Greene, 1997, p.272). “The number of successful entrepreneurial ventures by Black MBA graduates had also risen from 1997 to a record high of 66% in 2003” (Edgington & Marshall, 2005, p.2).

Formal employment of African American graduates

Concerning the professional environment, African American MBA graduates are more likely to receive promotions and career advancement when compared to other races (GOA, 2005, p.3). This can mainly be attributed to affirmative action because even though African American MBA graduates are increasingly being hired by organizations, they still constitute a small percentage of the total workforce in managerial positions (Pager et al 2009, p.5).

Consequently, in certain circumstances, some organizations have used quotas under which specific numbers of qualified minority members must be accepted to fill vacant positions. “For example, a university with a high proportion of Caucasian male faculty maybe required to fill half of its faculty vacancies with women and other minorities.” (Chima &Wharton, 1999, p.5-6).

Organizations are deliberately reorganizing their internal mechanisms in order to facilitate affirmative action. Numerous organizations are proactively progressing to ensure the facilitation of affirmative action. Organizations are willing and have been keen on ensuring that African Americans are represented in managerial and senior posts. According to (Roosevelt, 2004, p.22), “African American MBA graduates are hence more likely to be promoted than was the case in the early 1990s”.

By offering their commitment to affirmative action, organizations are experimenting on possible ways minority groups can be represented. In the experimentation process, African American MBA graduates will receive more promotions due to the fact that they are the minority group least represented in most organizations (Austin, 2008, p.6).

The introduction of racial neutral employment processes has also secured African American MBA graduates vacancies in various organizations. This is because more African Americans are enrolled into MBA programs in competitive schools even though some do not fulfill all the necessary academic requirements. Consequently, there are more African American MBA graduates at the end of every academic year (Eastland, 1996, p.139-142).

With the increasing number of African American MBA graduates, also comes an increase in opportunity as most organizations seek to employ MBA graduates from competitive schools due to the advanced skills and knowledge they possess (Dugan et al, 2003, p.13). African American MBA graduates are therefore likely to benefit from affirmative action due to the strict set of conduct it enforces on the business community. Affirmative action should however be viewed as a benefit to the whole society, for it ensures the consideration of input from all members of society regardless of race (Roosevelt, 2004, p.10).

Organizations now show greater interest in promoting equality in hiring and promotion as well as reimbursement. “Internal racial job segregation is highly discouraged to allow for free interactions since unmonitored interactions in employment practices are more likely to produce discriminatory workplace practices.” (Seltzer, 1991, p.315-316). Organizations that rely on teamwork ensure to incorporate members of all races in each of the teams.

The senior management is encouraged to be accountable for all employees and organizations diversify to ensure both racial fairness and unbiased performance. “Racial discrimination is a learned behavior and is only tolerated in the environment it thrives.” (Leymann, 1990, p. 122).

It is because of this that in recent year’s experts have insisted on the need for organizations to value diversity and diversity management. Several organizations have set up mechanisms that deal with racism that are meant to handle internal affairs regarding discrimination. Employees are required to sign a contract establishing that they will not engage in discrimination, and they are to be penalized if found guilty. In the occurrence of such an incident, a given set of procedure has to be followed, which is initiated by reporting of the matter (Landrine & Klonoff, 1996, p.145-147).

Internal investigations are then carried out to ascertain the validity of the accusation. Once it is established that an employee is guilty of racism, they are penalized either financially or through the loss of their job. Implementation of such stringent measures and precautions has safeguarded African American MBA graduates from possible discrimination. It is therefore more likely that African American graduates will receive job offers according to their qualifications, and compete for promotions with members of other races in a fair manner (Turner & Struyk, 1991, p.5)

Although very much contentious, several particulars point out that most organizations prefer graduates from top tier schools for their exemplary performance and high level of training (Turner & Struyk, 1991, p.3). A survey carried out by the Stedman group in 1997 where business owners and corporate leaders were interviewed revealed that most company owners and directors prefer a workforce driven by competitive school graduates. A 67% of those interviewed revealed that they consider the academic background of all managerial applicants and 59% of the interviewees had competitive school graduates constituting all the managerial positions in their organization. “Such information indicates the vulnerability of African American graduates in terms of securing a job if affirmative action was not involved.” (Keashly, 1998, p. 91).

The evolving business industry requires individuals to mentally and physically prepare themselves with the necessary set of skills that are current and relevant (Laseter, 1994, p.76). Additional business skills can only be obtained through higher education especially in elite schools. As businesses become more dynamic, the workforce needs to synchronize with the evolving changes and adjust accordingly or else they become redundant (Jaynes & Williams, 1989, p. 147).

Organizations for that reason need individuals with a multiplicity of skills who are able to successfully manage responsibilities and produce acceptable results. It is thus common practice for organizations to seek human resource that can outperform its peers and propel the organization forward. Such individuals are more likely to be alumnae of elite institutions and for this reason; graduates of elite institutions are more likely to receive job offers (Scott, 1995, p. 57). Thus, it is more plausible for African American MBA graduates to receive job offers since they are easily absorbed into competitive schools.

Significance of the study

This research will contribute to the field of scholarly knowledge by availing research findings that distinctively underscore the key implications affirmative action has on African American MBA graduates. Previous studies have been acknowledged that focused on affirmative action on a racial or academic scale but by paying close attention to African American MBA graduates, this study will provide a unique perspective to the impact of affirmative action exclusively on African American MBA graduates.

This research will be geared towards offering an insightful perspective of affirmative action and the role it has played and continues to play in the basal academic and professional field. The study will in particular be keen on the enrollment of African Americans in MBA programs and the follow up of the graduates into the professional field. The dissertation will also take interest in the role of top elite schools in providing the necessary set of skills required in the professional field in particular the role that top elite schools plays in ensuring African American MBA graduates achieve professional success.

It is imperative to emphasize that this research will mainly source its material on the subject of the impact of affirmative action on the professional and business careers of black MBA graduates, chiefly from the brief background. The primary data for this study will be procured through questionnaires, which will assist in the examination of the findings and provide the supporting information regarding the study.

Proposed methodology

This section presents the research methodology, which aims to optimally answer the questions. The methodology also seeks to support the arguments comprehended in the previous section and reviews the purpose of the study, and procedure of data collection that will be used for the study.

The intention of this research is to analyze the role of affirmative action in the successful absorption of African Americans MBA graduates into the business professional and entrepreneurial fields. This research also seeks to explore whether working African Americans are in their current positions because they were able to graduate from the top elite schools. The research in addition aims at collecting information from participants on their views on affirmative action and the role of affirmative action in securing their admission into MBA programs, vocational acquisition, career advancement and career success.

The purpose of this research is explanatory in that it seeks to elucidate the implications of affirmative action on working African American graduates. Furthermore, by analyzing the career choice of experience and already working African Americans from business schools, the research seeks to find the core impact of affirmative action on black MBA graduates.

Data collection method

The research questionnaire will be mailed and emailed. The questionnaire will have a cover letter with postage-paid return envelope. The researcher will also contact the surveyor by telephone if there is no response. There will be follow up telephone calls and reminder emails, within 10 days, following the questionnaires mailings.

This research will conduct a survey of working class African American MBA graduates from the National Black Masters Administration Association (NBMAA) regarding their career path and whether or not affirmative action had an impact on why they were hired. The study will also explore whether affirmative action had played a role in their promotions and career success.

The instrument will be presented in form of a close-ended questionnaire, which will be distributed, to members of the NBMAA. I will be responsible for designing the instrument that will collected demographic information, profession related information and academic qualifications. The questionnaire will be brief to ensure it is filled out within 3-6 minutes. I will then follow up on the instrument through telephone and gather additional information in the process. At the end of two weeks, I will gather the questionnaires for a comprehensive analysis.

The apt research site will be the NBMAA because they are the only association in the United States that explicitly deals with African American MBA graduates. The association is a merger of professional business graduates and its rooted history will provide me with an opportunity to get an in-depth analysis through a historical timeframe.

I intend to survey at least 300 MBA graduates through the questionnaire. However, I propose that the instrument be distributed to all members of the association and hence I will adjust the threshold number of individuals according to the number of respondents.

I will collect primary data from the NBMAA through questionnaires because questionnaires allow me to collect a large amount of random data and perform analysis of the data using a descriptive statistics synopsis such as, hierarchical linear regression. In addition, I will use secondary data that I will obtain from electronic databases and scholarly books and articles. This is because the value of research is correlated to the data collection methods and comprehensive research should include both primary and secondary data.


Considering all the facts presented in the previous chapters, it is more practical to use the quantitative-deductive research methodology that utilizes both primary and secondary data. The reason behind this is that quantitative data analysis is the most reliable way to objectively analyze data. I will use a deductive approach to determine the implications of affirmative action through the observation of African American MBA graduates before and during their absorption into lucrative professional business careers.


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