Wharton/Deloitte collab aims to break down barriers to inclusive leadership

The partnership will examine effective sponsorship and mentorship of Black and Latino/Hispanic American professionals.

Front entrance to Steinberg/Dietrich Hall on Penn’s campus.

The Wharton School and Deloitte, a multinational professional services company, are collaborating on a new research initiative to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in the broader business community. The research will compare experiences of Black and Latino/Hispanic American managers to those from racial majority groups, particularly how managers foster team inclusiveness. Key learnings will be used to develop business school curriculum and management training tools that will aim to advance inclusive leadership.

This project builds on previous research conducted by Stephanie Creary, an assistant professor of management at Wharton and leading expert on corporate diversity and inclusion practices. As a scholar who teaches and works closely with future business leaders, Creary is keenly aware of the aspirations of the future workforce.

“Students are extremely passionate about working in an environment that promotes the tenets of diversity, equity, and inclusion, and this passion serves as a source of inspiration for my research,” she says. “The research that this initiative will support will inform the work necessary to transform organizations to meet the changing values and expectations for work culture.”

Stephanie Creary of Wharton poses along a railing in Steinberg Hall-Dietrich Hall.
Wharton’s Stephanie Creary.

Through the collaboration, Wharton and Deloitte hope to gain a more nuanced understanding of effective sponsorship and mentorship of minorities, or Persons Excluded due to Ethnicity or Race (PEER), and use the research to enable professionals, organizations, and Wharton students how to become more inclusive leaders.

Building on previous research conducted by Creary, which suggests that leaders may provide their racial minority direct reports with qualitatively different types of support, the initiative includes a set of new research, consisting of surveys of managers from racial minority and majority groups, and a field experiment to test actions managers can take to improve team inclusiveness.

“Over the course of the past year, there’s been a surge in interest in dealing with issues of equity in organizations,” Creary says. “The challenge is that many organizations are struggling to strike a balance between, ‘When do we offer the same thing to everyone?’ and, ‘When do we offer targeted initiatives to groups that are not benefiting to the same extent from the everyone-gets-the-same-thing type of approach?’”

Creary says that many organizations have created broader talent development initiatives designed to support all employees’ needs. Yet, she says sometimes they don’t offer the specific support that people of color might need.

“The ‘Give everybody everything the same thing’ [option] doesn’t necessarily benefit people in the minority,” Creary says. “People who are responsible for helping to support the careers and the experiences of people who are in the minority aren’t always confident in their own capacities to be supportive. So there has to be a lot of work done for managers, for mentors, for sponsors, for allies, to help them understand that they too can effectively support people who are not like them demographically, either in terms of gender, or in the case of this particular project, race or ethnicity.”

Based on the research findings, Wharton’s McNulty Leadership Program (MLP) will deliver a series of workshops annually tailored to Wharton’s undergraduate, MBA, and Executive MBA communities. The MLP will also work with Wharton faculty and staff leadership to support the proper instruction and placement of this content in its other programs.