Program Aims to Build Pipelines to Executive Positions for Women, Minorities

NDIANAPOLIS -- A new partnership in Central Indiana is aiming to build pipelines to the executive suite for women and ethnic minorities.

Business schools in the region are hosting cohorts of highly qualified and diverse professionals for skills learning, networking, peer mentoring and more.

Dr. Leon Jackson, executive director of strategic initiatives at Marian University and founder of the Diversity in Leadership Program, hopes it will find inroads for candidates to access leadership and executive positions, as well as help the region attract, nurture and retain talented people.

"So often, I would see friends and family make statements about how they're moving to Atlanta or Texas or North Carolina because there are no opportunities here for really talented people," Jackson observed. "This program is designed to help curb what they call the brain drain here locally."

He pointed to research, which showed when executive teams are more diverse, it increases the bottom line for companies, and often it can help them identify new markets.

Jackson noted the six-month curriculum takes participants through key concepts such as business analytics, leadership communication, accounting and finance, organizational strategy and leading organizations. He emphasized they work with an executive coach and apply the lessons toward a project with their employer.

"We understand that ethnic minorities and women are not afforded the same opportunities as our white male counterparts," Jackson stressed. "And for the universities to be bought in to advancing these communities, these under-represented communities, is really cool."

The first cohort of the program began in July, and applications are now open for the second cohort, starting in January. In addition to the business schools hosting participants at Marian, Butler, Indiana University, Notre Dame and Purdue, all kinds of Indiana stakeholders are sponsoring the program, from One America and First Internet Bank to the Mind Trust and Crossroads Education.

by Lily Bohlke, Producer