Philip Jenkins Pays it Forward: Social Responsibility in Business

“Talent is equally distributed across the population but unfortunately opportunity is not," says Phil Jenkins, a McGill Engineering and MBA graduate who established the Philip Earle Jenkins MBA Leadership & Diversity Award in 2018 to create more business and management education opportunities for visible minorities. “I started this scholarship because it’s my firm belief that access to education has always been and will continue to be a significant contributor to reversing the institutional inequities that have existed throughout time.”

Jenkins vividly recalls the barriers and inequities he had to overcome as a young black MBA grad seeking entry into the world of high finance. While Jenkins was waiting in the lobby for his first interview with an investment banking firm, a man come out several times looking for the job candidate. He assumed Jenkins wasn’t the interviewee. After 20 minutes, the investment banker finally asked uncomfortably: “Are you Phil Jenkins?”

Jenkins had expected the man might apologize for his mistake, interview him fairly and properly assess his qualifications, technical knowledge, and interpersonal skills. “He had a very difficult time reconciling the name and the accomplishments on the resume with the face and the colour of my skin. Because the guy felt uncomfortable, he cut the interview short and I didn’t get the job,” says Jenkins, who is a Director at Moody’s Analytics in Toronto.

His Desautels education helped Jenkins to overcome discrimination in the financial services industry: “It gave me a network and the name of a very recognized business school to provide instant credibility in terms of technical skills and knowledge. Each time I had a setback, my McGill education and qualifications gave me the confidence to push on through the barriers and challenges I encountered,” says Jenkins, who started as a financial analyst at Imperial Oil and showed the entrepreneurial savvy to help grow Moody’s Analytics’ financial risk management business in Canada from two employees in 2008 to several hundred today.

Jenkins created a targeted award to increase access to high-quality education and open pathways for the next generation of black women and men to pursue management and leadership opportunities in business and finance. “My McGill education opened doors that otherwise wouldn’t have existed. If I’m able to help other qualified candidates with identifying and unlocking the door, society as a whole will benefit as there will be a lot more talented folks pushing on the door to get to the other side,” he says.

George Oriokot, the inaugural recipient in 2018, was selected by Poets & Quants as a 2020 MBA to watch. After graduating with a commerce degree from Makerere University in Uganda, he travelled throughout Africa and Europe consulting for a major international accounting firm and played professional rugby on the side.

The Jenkins scholarship opened the door for Oriokot to broaden and deepen his education and work experience at a top North American business school. “I had wanted to go to McGill for a long time to pursue a career in financial services or consulting at the management level. The MBA program is a significant investment and I wouldn’t have been able to attend without the scholarship,” says Oriokot, who landed a six-month consulting role at Deloitte’s Risk Advisory Practice in Montreal during his internship in 2019 and graduated in May of this year.

“Desautels has a brilliant reputation with world-class faculty. It’s a rigorous program that brings together mid-career students from 25 nationalities, which was terrific and gave me exposure to many different perspectives on business and finance,” says Oriokot, who shares Jenkins’ vision and passion for increasing access to education as a powerful lever for change.

“The Phil Jenkins award is forward-looking because it targets people like me, who are an underrepresented minority in business schools anywhere. Phil is pushing to open the doors for others, which is phenomenal and consistent with my goals. I’m optimistic that if we continue to see efforts to increase representation of visible minorities in business schools, it will lead to a greater representation of people like myself after me at the highest levels of business and on boards in North America, Europe, Africa and around the world,” he says.

The second award recipient is Ugochukwu Umeano, a software engineering major from Nigeria, who is specializing in business analytics at Desautels.

Jenkins aims for the scholarship, which is renewable every five years, to be a catalyst for lasting change as recipients achieve success in their own careers and open doors for others. “I’m honoured to be able to assist George, Ugochukwu and the many other qualified recipients in any way I can,” he says. “These types of targeted awards are needed more than ever in the fight against racial discrimination. My hope would be that the current and future recipients contemplate how they can make a difference by paying it forward and in their own way make it easier for each successive generation to compete on a level playing field.”

Article written by: Mark Witten

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