Corporate America is getting a demographic wake-up call: African Americans, Hispanic Americans and Native Americans will soon collectively comprise the majority of the U.S. population. By 2043, companies will need a diverse marketing strategy that appeals to a wide range of people to sell the consumer goods, services, automobiles, entertainment and everything else we buy.

The bottom line

To compete tomorrow, businesses must prepare today, with a workforce that reflects the communities they serve. The business world is not blind to this trend, but change is slow.

The imperative to change is not just altruistic, but economic. Companies place a dollar value on their investments in diversity recruiting and retention. Business publisher Thomson Reuters recently launched a separate stock index to help investors gauge corporate performance on diversity.

Corporations need talented, diverse leaders. Business students need those opportunities. Because I stand at the intersection of those two needs, working with students, universities and corporations, I know how important it is to proactively commit to creating access and opportunity — particularly for underrepresented populations.

“African Americans, Hispanic Americans and Native Americans will soon collectively comprise the majority of the U.S. population.”

Cultivating initiative

To gain access and grasp opportunity, leaders-in-the-making require education, preparation and—because success is also about who you know — relationships. The relationships you form before business school help you get there. The people you meet in business school become partners, coworkers, career advisors and employers.

We have found that businesses and business educators succeed at driving diversity when they are intentional about creating opportunities to network and build relationships. I see it work. Students build true bonds — not transactional relationships — with classmates, alumni and potential employers. Alumni often say the experiences create lifelong bonds that serve them throughout their careers.

Closing the gap

Yet progress lags. While business schools with a proactive, intentional approach to increasing underrepresented minority enrollment see markedly better results, the broad numbers are grim. Among the nation's top 50 business schools, with roughly 10,000 domestic MBA students, only about 8 percent are underrepresented minorities — a rate unmoved for years.

Meanwhile, study after study consistently shows that African Americans, Hispanic Americans and Native Americans remain deeply underrepresented in management positions, on corporate boards and in the C-suite.

For the vast majority of U.S. businesses, that demographic wake-up call is already ringing in their ears. Which companies are answering the call?