The Jonsson School

Jonsson School Dean Moderates Talk Among Corporate Leaders on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Megan Hogan, Chief Diversity Officer, Goldman Sachs

Dr. Stephanie G. Adams, dean of the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science at The University of Texas at Dallas, recently moderated a virtual panel discussion among executive-level officers on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). Panelists included Nancy Flores, executive vice president, chief operations officer and chief technology officer at McKesson Corp.; Terri Hatcher, chief diversity and inclusion officer at NTT DATA Services; and Maya Leibman, executive vice president & chief information officer for American Airlines.

Megan Hogan, chief diversity officer of Goldman Sachs, delivered opening remarks, emphasizing that all economic growth such as the gross domestic product or GDP is connected to diverse representation and begins with education.

“If we close the door to education, we close the door to career opportunities,” Hogan said. “If we close the door to career opportunities, we close the door to building wealth and if you think about it, we affect the entire GDP.”

Dr. Stephanie G. Adams, Dean of the Jonsson School, Lars Magnus Ericsson Chair

Adams’ goal for the event was to continue to expose those associated with the Jonsson School on the importance of DEI in engineering and computer science, through the lens of our corporate partners. She said that the Jonsson School has achieved progress in attracting a more diverse student population and faculty as compared to some schools of engineering but has not achieved truly diverse representation. The school’s student population has around 17% Hispanic students, 5% Black students and 20% women. Compared with national data provided by the American Society for Engineering Education, Jonsson School numbers are slightly higher for Hispanic students (14.4%), on par for Black students (5.1%) and lower for women (23.8%). The faculty demographics do not yet match those of the student population.

Adams, also holder of the Lars Magnus Ericsson Chair and a nationally recognized researcher of DEI in engineering education, said that inclusion in particular is an area of focus for her at the Jonsson School. She mentioned the story of an alum who identifies as part of the LGBTQ community who said he felt like he could not bring his entire self to the Jonsson School and who was enthusiastic about the new focus on DEI.

“If diversity is placing people in the room, inclusion is how people feel when they are in the room,” Adams said.

Diversity as a Business Imperative

Terri Hatcher, Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer, NTT Data Services

The panelists emphasized that diversity is not simply a moral choice — it has a major impact on business outcomes. People of color constitute more than one third of the U.S. population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. With growing social and political momentum to support DEI, companies are discovering that they cannot afford to ignore DEI efforts.

“I think this last year has caused many companies to review, reset, maybe even start over their diversity, equity and inclusion journeys to really question themselves if they are doing the things that can make a difference,” Hatcher said.

Consumers and partners are signaling that they will not support companies that do not diversify their senior leadership. Hatcher reiterated that the task of building a diverse, inclusive culture is ongoing, that each new hire has the potential to advance or reverse progress.

Mitigating Blind Spots

Maya Leibman, Executive Vice President and Chief Information Officer, American Airlines

Adams then asked panelists to describe specific cases in which diversity made a difference. Leibman described a product development process where artificial intelligence facial recognition technology was used to board an international flight within minutes, eliminating the need for long lines. However, because the product development team included diverse perspectives, they realized that not all passengers would be comfortable with such tracking tools which can be linked to bias or surveillance. They then provided customers an alternative means of boarding the plane. Without a diverse team providing important insight about the customer experience, they would have created a suboptimal product and experience for all customers, she said.

“Having people with different perspectives makes us stronger, more innovative, better problem solvers,” Leibman said. “That leads to a more interesting solution set.”

Redefining Good

Nancy Flores, Executive Vice President, Chief Operations Officer and Chief Technology Officer, McKesson Corp.

Another point for discussion was the idea that hiring managers think they need to choose between hiring for diversity and hiring for talent. Flores said that what hiring managers usually mean by good typically has little to do with the individual’s qualifications or the requirements of the position and more to do with comfort level through common interests and cultural norms.

“It’s not less than,” Flores said. “It’s actually that you’re missing so much opportunity. It’s clearing the way to bring forward the wisdom, intelligence and brilliance of many people.”

One student asked a practical question — should a high school student take a fast-food service job? The panelists described how taking a service job shows initiative, improves understanding of human nature and demonstrates a willingness to work hard and persevere through less desirable tasks. Hiring managers need to consider the value of all types of employment and service experience so they can reach untapped talent, panelists said.

At the event’s conclusion, Chris Bhatti MA’06, assistant vice president of development and alumni relations at UT Dallas and associate dean for external relations in the Jonsson School, discussed the University’s New Dimensions campaign, which will provide scholarships and other resources for first-generation college students.

The University continues to lay the groundwork for future DEI advancements across all levels. Following the event, the University announced that Dr. Yvette Pearson is its new vice president for the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. The Jonsson School is also hiring a new associate dean for diversity and strategic initiatives, and Adams is seeking input from a committee that includes a diverse pool of faculty and staff members.

A recording of the full panel discussion is available on YouTube.