Differentiation through impact part IV

Business Impact: Differentiation through impact part IV

Differentiation through impact part IV

Business Impact: Differentiation through impact part IV

How are business schools working to widen access to education and address inequality?

The way business schools compete is changing. Those institutions which can demonstrate their impact on society are increasingly able to stand out from the crowd, in the eyes of prospective students, employers, and other stakeholders.

Business Impact set out to learn more and share examples of how business schools across the global BGA network are striving to make a positive impact on their graduates, communities, and the natural environment.

This article considers how business schools are working to widen access to education and address inequality. Interviewee respondents represent business schools in France, Japan, Egypt, Belgium, Switzerland, and Canada. 

How is your Business School addressing social inequality through widening access to educational and/or employment opportunities? 

Kenji Yokoyama, Dean of External Relations, NUCB Business School: NUCB has been proactive in admitting female workers and managers as students. One of our visions is to provide more women with access to the economy and its upper echelons. 


Nicola Jackman, Head of Academics, Geneva Business School: Since our establishment, we have aimed to address social inequality actively by making financial and academic scholarships, internships, and career opportunities accessible.

From an academic perspective, in this post-pandemic era, we are continuing to offer the hybrid modality for both our undergraduate and graduate programmes, which allows us to reach out to a wider community of people who would otherwise not be able to access an international higher education experience.


Yasmina Kashouh, DBA candidate at Ascencia Business School and Faculty Member at Collège de Paris International: We have work/study contracts that make it possible for 70% of our students to attend our programmes at zero cost, and to get paid while studying. Tuition fees are paid by partner corporations and students get to work part time. This is made available to international students as well. We believe that this the most efficient way to provide opportunities to everyone, regardless of income.


Sherif Kamel, Dean, The American University in Cairo School of Business: The School, in coordination with the wider university, is driven by the values of equity, diversity and inclusion. Accordingly, it is determined to address social inequality and provides a portfolio of sponsorship and fellowship schemes, as well as financial aid programmes. The School aims to graduate entrepreneurial and responsible global leaders regardless of their social background.


Steven De Haes, Dean, Antwerp Management School: We offer a range of dedicated scholarships to candidates with a weaker financial and social background. One example is the AMS Fund for Innovative and Sustainable Entrepreneurship. The fund selects fellows from developing countries who, besides studying for a master’s degree, also receive coaching in developing innovative and sustainable business ideas. As young entrepreneurs, such initiatives can contribute substantially to the development of their local communities. In terms of widening employment, the School has an active policy of creating job opportunities for people with mental impairments or disabilities.


This article is part of a series and has been adapted from an article which originally appeared in Business Impact’s print magazine (edition: May 2022-July 2022).

You might want to read other related articles on diversity:

Business Impact: We live in a racialised society

We live in a racialised society

Racism continues, despite the claims that we are a more enlightened society, and to advance racial equity within your organisation, you must first understand how we arrived at this point, says Shereen Daniels, author of ‘The Anti-Racist Organization’

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How cultural intelligence impacts DEI in the workplace

Business Impact: How cultural intelligence impacts DEI in the workplace

How cultural intelligence impacts DEI in the workplace

Business Impact: How cultural intelligence impacts DEI in the workplace
High cultural intelligence in leaders is positively correlated with organisational performance and can help us tackle bias in recruitment, says Included’s Lydia Cronin

To be culturally intelligent is to adapt and operate effectively in a range of contexts. These can be across national, ethnic, organisational, generational, and departmental settings.

Cultural intelligence capabilities

Cultural intelligence is made up of four key capabilities. These are:

  • Drive: The curiosity and motivation needed to work well with those who are different to us.
  • Knowledge: Learning and understanding different cultures and what makes groups different.
  • Strategy: Embedding this understanding into your plans and how your organisation does day-to-day work.
  • Action: Adapting your everyday behaviour in light of your knowledge and experience.

If we build our own cultural intelligence, we can play a significant part in improving diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) at work.


In a globalised world of work, managers and leaders often need to have the ability to manage teams who live in different countries and represent a range of different cultures.

A diverse workforce will be made up of a range of different demographic groups and, post-pandemic, these groups are also likely to have a range of different flexible working arrangements and needs. This diversity is the reality of organisations and our society. With cultural intelligence, you can leverage the power of a globalised workforce, as your ability to perform in a cross-cultural situation is increased.

In recruiting, there can be a risk of confirmation bias. This is a natural human tendency to look for evidence that supports our held beliefs and avoid information that conflicts with these held beliefs. Additionally, some organisations look to hire based on ‘culture fit.’

Both of these tendencies, especially when overlaid with one another, can result in recruiters repeatedly hiring candidates who are like themselves. This results in teams that lack diversity of thought and often approach problem solving in the same way. By developing our cultural intelligence, we can tackle bias in recruitment by increasing our understanding and familiarity with those from different groups to us.

Additionally, being comfortable and effective when working across different cultures will turn us away from seeking to hire based on ‘culture fit’. In conjunction, this will support the de-biasing of the recruitment process and make it more likely that your organisation is hiring inclusively and building a diverse team.


Equity is not the same as equality. Equality means providing everyone with the same, regardless of their needs or circumstance. Equity, however, looks to give people what they need in order for the resulting playing field to be level.

Using the cultural intelligence you have been building at work will mean you can account for the cultural differences across your organisation and the needs of different markets and people. Building on the key ‘Knowledge’ capability referred to above means you will be developing an understanding of the way different groups will need to be supported and empowered in order to have an equal, meritocratic experience of work.


How do people feel once they have joined an organisation? Inclusion is a critical part of organisational culture. High levels of cultural intelligence can support workplace inclusion.

The ‘Action’ capability which is essential to cultural intelligence requires behaviour adaptation. Consciously modifying our behaviour to be inclusive creates a safer environment for those around us. It limits microaggressions and allows us to build a workplace culture where all of our colleagues feel able to be themselves at work. This, in turn, will help drive the innovation and effective problem solving that diverse teams excel at. Inclusion is an essential piece of realising this potential.

Culturally intelligent employees can drive up innovation and creativity across teams, as they are able to integrate diverse resources. High cultural intelligence in leaders is positively correlated with organisational performance. It boosts effective communication, meaning we’re better able to work across cross-cultural contexts.

Three ways to improve your cultural intelligence

If cultural intelligence can support creating more diverse, inclusive, and equitable organisations, how can we develop it?

1. Create a safe space: Psychological safety is one of the most critical elements of inclusion, but it is often overlooked. It’s crucial to create environments where all colleagues feel that they can share their true experiences without fearing judgement or backlash. In these spaces, we can have open dialogue and learn from one another. This develops the key capability of Knowledge as we better understand each other’s backgrounds, needs and motivations.

2. Acknowledge fears: Many of us will have avoided challenging conversations because we fear the repercussions of saying ‘the wrong thing’. Committing to the key capability of ‘Drive’, we can commit to our learning by normalising these feelings of fear and discomfort in order to have better, more insightful conversations.

3. Name it: Be specific and don’t dance around issues that need to be addressed. Using vague, indirect language for specific problems means it is unlikely that these issues will be addressed.

Cultural intelligence, and its key capabilities, can be trained and developed like muscles in a gym. By continuously working across these capabilities and the above steps we can become more culturally intelligent, no matter where we might currently be on this journey. With better understanding of people who are different to us, and proactively learning more as time goes on, we can be leaders and managers who create inclusive environments for those around us.

Lydia Cronin is Marketing Manager at consultancy, Included, and a contributing author to The Key to Inclusion: A Practical Guide to Diversity, Equity and Belonging for You, Your Team and Your Organisation, edited by Stephen Frost (Kogan Page, 2022).

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Read more Business Impact articles related to diversity:

Business Impact: We live in a racialised society

We live in a racialised society

Racism continues, despite the claims that we are a more enlightened society, and to advance racial equity within your organisation, you must first understand how we arrived at this point, says Shereen Daniels, author of ‘The Anti-Racist Organization’


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The role of Business Schools in driving equality

Business Impact: The role of Business Schools in driving equality

The role of Business Schools in driving equality

Business Impact: The role of Business Schools in driving equality

Educators must reach out beyond the walls of their institutions and address the most important issues facing society, writes Ellen Buchan

According to UNICEF, almost half of the world’s population – more than 3 billion people – live on less than $2.50 USD a day. This problem is exacerbated by the sharp divide between these extreme levels of poverty and the extreme wealth that exists on the other side of the income spectrum. Data from the World Inequality Report shows that inequality is rising, or staying extremely high, nearly everywhere. Since 1980, the share of national income going to the richest 1% has increased rapidly in North America, China, India and Russia, and more moderately in Europe. 

Before Covid-19, in the US, the top 1% controlled 38% of the total assets in the country – which is 16 times the total wealth of the bottom 50% combined. Other countries show similar patterns. 

The pandemic has only expanded these differences. In fact, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) found that while the severe impact of the Covid-19 pandemic is clearly seen in the numbers – 120 million people pushed into extreme poverty, and a massive global recession – some data shows an increase in another extreme: the wealth of billionaires.

This inequality has moral consequences for the structure of our global society. Inequality exacerbates social differences and reduces upward mobility – leading to greater stratification within communities. This, in turn, tends to lead to greater crime and social instability. The Equality Trust reports that rates of violence are higher in more unequal societies and goes as far as to suggest that more permanent decreases in inequality would reduce homicides by 20% and lead to a 23% long-term reduction in robberies. Political participation also suffers as the ‘have-nots’ struggle with daily needs and the ‘haves’ entrench themselves further. Nationalistic and nativist narratives harden.

Another consequence is the impact on sustainability and the planet. The have-nots are forced to live off the land, leading to deforestation – the Amazon and Indonesian rainforests being examples of this. These individuals are less likely to be able to access alternative energy solutions and thus rely on fossil fuels. They are both contributors to, and victims of, climate change. As a global Business School community, it is imperative that we should reach out beyond the walls of our institutions and address the most important issues facing our society, especially when these relate so closely to why we do business: to provide a living for ourselves and those around us in a global marketplace. 

But can Business Schools also be considered contributors to the current state? They are the producers of talent for the financial and consulting elites. The aim of corporations is to maximise shareholder value; asset stripping, private equity or suppressing wages are sometimes in the best interests of the firm.

To tackle these issues and more, AMBA & BGA, in association with Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), hosted a roundtable with Business School leaders. The ensuing discussion sought to delve into the role of Business Schools in addressing global inequality, to examine what’s changed and how far the points above resonate with decision-makers in higher education. Here are some highlights from that conversation. 

Sangeet Chowfla, President and CEO, Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC)

As a Business School community, we have to change the conversation from one that puts the needs of shareholders and capital first to one that also looks at social, environmental, equity and social issues. A shift from the shareholder primacy view of business to a multiple stakeholder model. We should certainly do the tactical things – recruiting and admitting more diverse classes, creating the appropriate curriculum – but we need an intellectual framework around the role of business that goes beyond the Friedman model of shareholder primacy to one that is more inclusive in terms of environmental and social equity. Who else will build this framework if not the university?

The other thing is that technology has fundamentally changed how we deliver education. Education is no longer reserved for those who can put two years of their career on hold and afford to travel to a western, high-cost city for an MBA programme. Technology has enabled us, as Business Schools, to deliver in different ways, to create a flatter meritocracy or a more distributed, democratised form of meritocracy. This creates more equality of opportunity which can lead to equality of outcomes. After all, it does not seem that we can truly address equality if only a certain elite – economic or dynastic – however well-intentioned, is going to create a level future for all.

So, if we can do these two things simultaneously (build the intellectual framework for what capitalism looks like out into the future, and use technology to democratise or spread the creation of the meritocracy) then that contribution can be huge, changing the value of business education as we see it today.

Catherine Duggan, Dean, University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business

When I think about the role of Business Schools, I am always reminded of a quote from a Nigerian writer, Ben Okri. He writes: ‘We can redream this world and make the dream real’. I think those two elements are exactly what we do at a Business School: we are reimagining what the world could be and equipping ourselves and our students with the tools and skills to implement that vision.

Both parts are critical as we make a case for business education. We have an opportunity to re-dream things, but we also have a responsibility to pair that process with the tools to make things real; to make them work. Fundamentally, I think that, at Business Schools, we teach our students how to think about things in new ways, under new conditions. 

When I talk to our alumni, they don’t point to specific skills as the things that they continue to draw on from their MBAs. Instead, they point to the way they learnt how to see the world – particularly the way they learnt how to see new opportunities and spot new risks.

That’s what I see as our role: giving our students new analytical tools and ways of thinking about things, then helping them to put those tools together with their own experiences and unique worldviews so they can see things others don’t. I think that’s how you find new opportunities for social impact.

Johan S Roos, Chief Academic Officer, HULT International Business School

Inequality is a big theme. There is always going to be inequality in a competitive world, and a world without it is a utopia. Socialism and communism have tried to eradicate inequality and that just doesn’t work. George Orwell’s famous novel Animal Farm illustrates the fact that some people will always consider themselves more equal than others. 

Inequality is – to some extent – a driving force for societal progress and personal improvements. But we need to make sure that people can beat inequality and enhance their living conditions. The key thing is [to ensure] that the economy and social structures are dynamic, not static. People stuck in poverty or misery without opportunities to improve their lives makes inequality a very complex problem with no easy answer. The world is unfortunately full of examples of this. 

What can we do in higher education to help drive society towards the dynamic scenario rather than the static one? We can ensure that students and faculty talk openly about inequality and the problems it causes, but also about how everyone can gain equal opportunities to improve their lives. At the same time, we need to cultivate and protect one of the key success factors of successful business, economies and society; meritocracy. The challenge is that a meritocracy is inclusive, so that we all have a chance to compete and succeed based on our merits, regardless of how we look or how we chose to live our personal lives. An inclusive and ethical meritocracy should be a powerful driving force to making the world a better place. 

Business Schools should be reinforcing the idea that people must be able to work, progress, and live meaningful lives within society – within the moral and legal boundaries provided by institutions and the law, of course. To keep the topic hot, we should also make sure we can discuss existing knowledge about inequality, debate and develop new ideas, and encourage students and faculty to engage in the public debate. I often tell my faculty members that they have a responsibility to engage in public debate about things they understand and have views on. 

Donna M Rapaccioli, Dean, Gabelli School of Business, Fordham University

We must ensure that access to the highest quality of education is available to everyone. I am concerned that high-potential individuals who lack resources to fund their education are being guided into training programmes instead of educational institutions. 

While these training programmes provide a cost-effective opportunity to emerge from poverty, society needs more. To really impact income inequality in the long term, we need holistic education, which equips individuals with the knowledge and mindsets needed to reach the highest levels of organisations. We have to figure out how to enable all members of society to experience an education that prepares them for leadership.

One key point to be transparent about is the kind of School you are. Fordham is a Jesuit Catholic School; our mission is to educate compassionate global business leaders who will make positive societal change. That is how we present ourselves, so there is a predisposition in terms of the type of students who apply to our School. I believe that Schools have a responsibility to be truthful about who they are; if social justice is at the heart of your mission, you need to say that up front.

Clearly articulating your mission in your messaging is one way you can curate the composition of your student body. Once students are enrolled, they should experience your mission in their learning opportunities, the curriculum and co-curriculum, the cases assigned by faculty, and the speakers you invite. These will reinforce one another.

It’s not easy, but many Schools are realising that an holistic education, which thrives on a diverse, engaged learning environment, can be transformative. Many Schools are also now looking for activists and changemakers – you want them on your campus because you want that passion. The creativity and drive they bring will amplify your efforts at creating a truly dynamic learning environment that educates for leadership.

Andrew Main Wilson, CEO, AMBA & BGA

Sangeet Chowfla, President and CEO, Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC)
Catherine Duggan, Dean, University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business
Donna M Rapaccioli, Dean, Gabelli School of Business, Fordham University
Johan S Roos, Chief Academic Officer, HULT International Business School

This article is adapted from one which originally appeared in Business Impact’s print magazine (edition: May 2022-July 2022)

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We live in a racialised society

Business Impact: We live in a racialised society

Racism continues, despite the claims that we are a more enlightened society, and to advance racial equity within your organisation, you must first understand how we arrived at this point, says Shereen Daniels, author of The Anti-Racist Organization

We don’t understand racism.

Our lack of moral courage in at least talking accurately about racism, whether in the workplace or in wider society, means that we have reduced it to overt, easily identified behaviour.

Depending on the individual, the position they hold and how valuable they are to the company, we may be unceasing in our vilification of individuals, their specific actions and the agendas we deem racist. But a zero-tolerance approach to racism is never truly zero tolerance. And it can’t be, because racism is insidious and isn’t just about how we act.

Dismissing racism’s origin story

We brush off racism as incidents isolated to specific individuals’ opinions and actions, ones we soon forget when the individual is, hopefully, disgraced. Yet when we inevitably push these matters out of our minds, making the conscious decision to ‘move on’ with the mechanics of our own lives, we completely misconstrue racism’s existence.

We deceive ourselves, comfort ourselves even, into believing that these odd, occasional incidents by rash individuals are racism in its entirety – something wholly separate from us and from the values on which we base our lives. When we do this we trivialise racism’s reality.

‘I do not condone racism, under any circumstances. This behaviour is abhorrent to me. I would never hire anyone who I thought was racist. Not all white people are racist.’ [Unnamed] clients, 2020

‘I was really offended. I’m a nice person. I don’t have a racist bone in my body.’ [Unnamed] HR consultant, 2020

We may focus more on whether we are being accused of something, hoping to hear, ‘Oh, I don’t mean you of course’, which we can take to mean that we are somehow separate from the issue. If it’s not us, we can continue to talk about those ‘bad people’ over there.

We subconsciously dismiss racism’s origin story, where it came from and how, all these centuries later, it’s still here. It continues to do its work, barely interrupted, despite the technological advances and the claims that we are a more enlightened and civilised society.

A manmade system that feeds off apathy, compliance and obedience

Racism is so entrenched within the fabric of our society that we can’t imagine living any other way. And whether or not we want to address it consciously, we do live in a racialised society.

But the concept of race doesn’t actually exist. It was fabricated to serve a specific purpose that dates back to the 17th century, when philosophers were engaging in their own version of blue-sky thinking and designing what they thought would be the ideal society for men like them to get and stay ahead.

Simply put, the founding principles upon which western society is built purposefully created the racist ideology we live by. And make no mistake – we do live by it. We may not have been around when its concrete foundations were poured, but we exist in the structures those foundations support. We’ve never questioned the inherent fairness of those structures, because it works, for the majority at least. And is it our responsibility to fix something we never had a hand in creating?

Racism is one of the best manmade systems every created. More than 500 years later, it is still doing exactly what it was designed to do. And it feeds off our apathy, compliance and obedience. It rewards insecurity, superiority and scarcity.

The challenge of representation

Despite how uncomfortable this makes you feel, we do live in a society that values whiteness. This creates and reinforces power structures that work for the benefit of white people – to different degrees, of course, but whiteness is central to pretty much everything, with the intended consequence being that Black people (at least those in western society) exist with little or no institutional power to improve our situation.

We are not represented en masse in the political and corporate corridors of power. We are punished rather than rewarded for doing anything that seeks to improve the experiences of people who look like us. In some cases, this is referred to as ‘reverse racism’ and is actively discouraged, lest we be accused of favouring our own.

There might be one or two of us, of course, who have somehow got to that magical seat at the table, but as we’ve seen time and again, the conscious and subconscious limiting of Black representation doesn’t just pose a challenge for the ‘About Us’ section of corporate websites.

We aren’t here protesting, calling for and instigating change because we don’t have the will or the capability. It’s because the systems and structures we inhabit are deliberately not skewed in our favour.

Decisions that affect Black colleagues are universally made by white people. Even if you claim to consult, fundamentally you have the final call. Despite our objections, we don’t have the power, rank or privilege to influence those decisions – not really, despite proclamations to the contrary.

‘We have an open-door policy and we listen to our colleagues. Those issues are in society. We definitely don’t have any of that here.’ [Unnamed] CEO, 2021

You might be thinking, why keep bringing up this messy, complex societal issue and making it a corporate problem? Why can’t we keep it separate? It’s too emotional, too divisive and now if you say the wrong thing you’re done for.

There is no space for ‘politics’ within the workplace.

In order to advance racial equity within your organisation, you need to understand how we arrived at this point in the first place. We got here through rational thinking, through logic and objectivity as decided centuries ago by white Englishmen.

In a strange way, we got there through ‘politics’, as defined as the activities associated with the governance of a country or area, especially the debate between parties having power.

This is an edited extract from The Anti-Racist Organization: Dismantling Systemic Racism in the Workplace, by Shereen Daniels (Wiley, 2022).

Shereen Daniels is Chair of the African Diaspora Economic Inclusion Foundation and Managing Director of HR rewired.

BGA members can receive a 20% discount off a copy of The Anti-Racist Organization, courtesy of the BGA Book Club. Please click here for details.

Developing a more diverse and inclusive future for all in education and business

Business Impact: Developing a more diverse and inclusive future for all in education and business

Business Schools must prioritise inclusivity or face being left behind. Highlights from a session at the AMBA & BGA Business School Leaders Summit 2022

The success of Business Schools is increasingly aligned to leadership efforts to become inclusive and develop a progressive strategy that has diversity at its core. Generation Z is calling for it and, with equality movements such as LGBTQ+ and BLM gaining momentum, it is imperative that Business Schools continue to meet these demands. Simply put: The winning formula is a diverse one.

Change is happening but at a pace that, historically, has been too slow across all sectors. With the momentum that has been generated, it is vital for Schools to prioritise inclusivity or face being left behind.

Schools must look to a mix of backgrounds within their talent pool. Business School leaders, student recruitment, and HR must collaborate to build inclusive strategies that support diversity. This should focus on groups that may otherwise be marginalised.

Creating fair working environments

In an interactive panel session at the AMBA & BGA Business School Leaders Summit 2022, four experts shared their opinions on work that is being done to create, incorporate and develop culture, diversity, and inclusion practices in Business Schools, while campaigning for fair working environments around the world.

Laura Pacey, Product Director, UK, HE & OUP, McGraw Hill, posed a question to the panel, asking where barriers to the ‘cultural shift’ in business exist, and where the shift should start in order to achieve diversity, equity and inclusion – given that, so far, training programmes have not always been successful. She kicked off the discussion by making the point that ‘we certainly too often think that equity, diversity and inclusion are the same, but there are certain things to address within this definition.’

Sofia Skrypnyk, Head of Equity, Inclusion & Human Rights, C&A was first to share her insights. ‘The best way to fast-track efforts in equity and inclusion is to accept that there are no short cuts and no silver bullets for this agenda,’ she argued. ‘It’s a social justice agenda and requires lasting behavioural change. One of the problems is that in the corporate sector, we’re looking at this agenda as a series of events that are inspirational projects, rather than as a deep-rooted change that takes years. 

‘The field of diversity and inclusion is relatively new, but over the past decade, there has been so much research, and a body of evidence on what works and what doesn’t. We must stop looking for the next hot topic and have patience; we can learn from insights in social science and social change management. A lack of data is a result of inequity, so explore any data that should accompany any intervention that will bring any change you want to see.’

Oluchi Ikechi D’Amico, Partner, Head of Innovation for Strategy & Transactions APAC, Capital Markets, EY, added: ‘One of the big things organisations need to do is focus on inclusion. When they think about diversity, equality, and inclusion they focus too much on diversity –where they are, where they want to get to and the targets they aspire to.

‘Simply put, we need to do more on inclusion, and this goes beyond training. It’s about the DNA of an organisation and belonging. This can be learned but cannot be [taught]. It happens through real dialogue, core values and a need for recognising there is a problem and that something needs to be done about it. Inclusion is something we speak about – but not something we fully understand. If it’s addressed, then we should have a diverse, representative workforce.’

Closing the session, Steve Butler, CEO, Punter Southall Aspire, Author of Inclusive Culture, Advisor to The Diversity Project, and CIPD Academic Member, added: ‘In my sector [financial services], we need to attract a different set of individuals and then create a culture where individuals can progress and train to make it through the organisations into senior roles. It’s a long-term play, but without the efforts we’re discussing, nothing will change.’

Laura Pacey, Product Director, UK, HE & OUP, McGraw Hill

Steve Butler, CEO, Punter Southall Aspire, Author of Inclusive Culture, Advisor to The Diversity Project, and CIPD Academic Member
Oluchi Ikechi D’Amico, Partner, Head of Innovation for Strategy and Transactions APAC, Capital Markets, EY
Sofia Skrypnyk, Head of Equity, Inclusion & Human Rights, C&A

This article is adapted from one which originally appeared in Ambition – the magazine of the Association of MBAs.

Transforming inclusion for people with disabilities

Business Impact: Transforming inclusion for people with disabilities

Inclusion for people with disabilities is often sidelined, but Schools have a role in enhancing opportunities and changing perceptions, writes Nyenrode Business University’s Naomi Vervaart

Diversity and inclusion is usually part of a Business School’s strategy, but policies for people with a disability are not always covered.

I believe the subject of disability inclusion at international Business Schools is of great importance and should be discussed more. It should become an integral part of an inclusive strategy for Schools worldwide.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, disability inclusion means understanding the relationship between the way people function and how they participate in society, and making sure everybody has the same opportunities to participate in every aspect of life to the best of their abilities and desires. One billion people, or 15% of the world’s population, experience some form of disability. One-fifth of the estimated global total – or between 110 million and 190 million people – experience significant disabilities.

Given that disabilities have such wide-reaching effects, it’s surely important for international Business Schools to understand how disabilities can uniquely impact a person, and in turn how Schools can offer their help and support. This may range from looking at application processes to scrutinising the accessibility of buildings and curricula. It includes support not only for the students, but also for the academics and employees (such as me) who work within Business Schools.

Drawing on first-hand experience

I was born and raised in Bruekelen, and having stayed close to my roots, am now working at the Business School there: Nyenrode Business University. Disability inclusion is a topic close to my heart as I was born with hereditary spastic paraparesis and am a wheelchair user. This is a rare condition, caused by the impaired functioning of descending nerves in the spinal cord. It manifests in increasing spasticity, weakness and stiffness in both legs which can make it difficult to walk. While it cannot be prevented, slowed or reversed, some of its symptoms can be managed to make day-to-day activities easier.

Prior to my role at Nyenrode Business University, I graduated as a teacher of Dutch sign language. However, I found it challenging to find a job in this sector and, after my studies, I worked for a year in customer services at the Dutch railways. I came across the opening at Nyenrode Business University with the help of an employment agency. I began working here in 2016, initially  as programme co-ordinator at the Executive Education department, responsible for participant administration. 

In April 2021, I became programme advisor. I enjoy helping people find a programme that suits their learning needs. My typical day includes contacting people who have shown interest in a certain course, or offering my help to those who might have queries about studying at Nyenrode Business University. Our executive education offers approximately 100 programmes and there’s always something (not least an email or 10) to keep me busy. 

Trying to find a suitable programme for a student with a physical or learning disability is not always straightforward. For those who need extra support, there can be challenges to overcome, and I believe we need to support these students in their studies; for example, by adding more guidance and information about studying with a disability to our websites and making this information clearly visible on the homepage.  

I would also like to see brochures featuring images of both disabled and able-bodied people. Little things like this can make someone with disabilities feel more included, showing that their needs will be catered for. Universities should take the time to consider how they present themselves, and their accessibility and acceptance of disabled people. This would make a big difference to students with disabilities applying for their programmes, giving them confidence that an institution is able to offer proper support. 

Tips for Business Schools

My advice for Schools includes making sure that application processes promote an inclusive environment. If your School is truly accessible to everyone, and is it possible for people with disabilities to study there, then make that clear. Upload details to your website and print it in your brochures. Enable students with disabilities to share their experiences with new students. Promote the fact that students with disabilities are welcome at your School. 

Inclusion for people with disabilities can often take a back seat in the face of other issues or priorities. Disability can fall behind the curve when it comes to Business School strategy, in comparison to other diversity strands such as gender, race and sexual orientation. These receive more attention, perhaps because there is greater awareness of them. 

Many people within universities – students and academics alike – have had little experience of disability. Schools can make sure that policies and practices exist to make disability awareness more of a priority, and create an environment that is inclusive and accessible to all. In many cases, it is quite possible to study when you have a disability. However, I believe Schools need think about, and help with, necessary adjustments.

There are various different strategies that international Business Schools can implement to encourage and develop a culture of inclusion. Preparation and awareness training is a great way to mitigate a lot of challenges. For example, making sure a building is accessible to those who use a wheelchair or require mobility aids makes it much easier and more comfortable for students with disabilities to move about. Installing equipment that supports students’ needs gives them full access to education. 

At Nyenrode, accessibility is something that has been thought through and has really benefited me. I can move around easily in my wheelchair in the newer buildings here. In fact, I can do so in all but the castle, which was built hundreds of years ago. Our location in Amsterdam is also accessible to those with unique requirements.

Meanwhile, improving the way in which information is delivered to those with learning disabilities can make teaching, and the curriculum, more accessible and welcoming; for example, using assistive technology or audio formats to encourage multi-sensory learning and to cater to the different ways in which a student may engage with information. This might include providing readings and printouts in a larger font, using Braille worksheets, or something as simple as improving the lighting in classrooms to make for a more comfortable learning environment. 

Simply facilitating a discussion between faculty and students on what, and how, improvements can be made can make a difference. This is something that happens at Nyenrode. Everyone is welcome here, as long as the study is suited to them. We discuss students’ needs, and together we will look for solutions. It doesn’t matter whether a student has a disability or not. 

Giving people the opportunity and tools to talk about their disability creates an open and transparent environment at a Business School, and this is a really important way of bringing disability inclusion to the forefront of a School’s agenda. Through facilitating discussions, Schools enable students to offer their own ideas and bring first-hand experience to the table around how to promote change in terms of the School’s facilities, organisations, curricula or policies. We find the conversations with prospective students to be very important. 

Bridging the gap between education and employment

Having addressed these practical issues, the next step for many Business Schools and universities to consider is bridging the gap between study and employment for those with disabilities. When looking at my own situation a number of years ago, I recall that the School I attended in Utrecht provided little in the way of help when I was considering life after university. As a result, I had trouble find an internship and was apprehensive about applying for jobs subsequently, expecting to face similar issues. Writing my résumé was also a challenge due to the lack of guidance. 

For example, I struggled with whether or not to state on applications that I was in a wheelchair. I wasn’t sure whether to introduce the subject during the first few emails. However, fortunately, at my School, I spotted a flyer on the bulletin board advertising an employment agency for people with disabilities – named ‘Emma at Work’ – so I reached out to them. 

Emma at Work is specifically designed to help young people with disabilities find employment. The agency started in 2006 from a project in the Emma Children’s Hospital (EKZ) Amsterdam UMC. After a year, it became an independent foundation, growing into a non-profit organisation. The agency is committed to closing the gap between young people who have a chronic illness or physical condition and the labour market. 

The agency helps to train and develop young people aged between 15 and 30 through its programme GAP Track. The aim is to find each applicant a job at a company that suits them. It wants to help create a society in which everyone can participate. I don’t think I would have been able to find a job so quickly without Emma at Work’s help. Thankfully, I found the agency, but I would like to see more faculty members having conversations with students with disabilities and giving them the sort of advice I received from the agency – especially when it comes to finding accessible internships. 

When considering the future of diversity and inclusion for all in business education, I am incredibly optimistic. The subject is becoming increasingly important, and I believe that more and more people are beginning to talk about disability. Already, there are many Business Schools providing disability co-ordinators, specific disability policies and pages of support on their websites. This is an important step in the right direction. 

I hope that, through sharing my own experiences – alongside those of others in similar situations – I can provide a positive example of how it is possible to overcome potential challenges and that this will serve as a message of encouragement to others. International Business Schools have the power to change perceptions. They can help to puncture the idea that students with disabilities will struggle to study or to work. They can help to provide environments that are truly inclusive to everyone. 

Naomi Vervaart joined Nyenrode Business University in 2016, working as Programme Coordinator in the School’s executive education department. In April 2021, she became a Programme Advisor at Nyenrode.
Disability inclusion is a topic close toNaomi’s heart as she is a wheelchair user, having been born with hereditary spastic paraparesis.

This article originally appeared in Ambition – the magazine of the Association of MBAs.

Encouraging acceptance over assimilation

Business Impact: Diversity - acceptance over assimilation with UCL School of Management

The unique perspectives brought to organisations by international students and workers may be tolerated in the first instance, but there are often expectations that newcomers assimilate to presiding norms over time. UCL School of Management’s Felix Danbold outlines why Business Schools should be ready to anticipate and address tensions that may emerge

Moving to a new country for one’s studies or work can be an exhilarating, enriching and often daunting experience. The typical international student has a lot on their plate. On top of their coursework, they might have to become increasingly fluent in another language while also forging new connections in a country with new norms and expectations. International students studying on management or MBA programmes are often also faced with the stresses associated with gaining valuable, but demanding, international business experience and securing highly competitive jobs in their chosen country.

When you couple moving to a new country with finding a new job, expats might wonder how they can navigate these changes successfully. When starting at a new university or job, international students may feel pressure to conform to the expectations of new colleagues and employers. A real worry may emerge that if they don’t assimilate, they may experience bias and ostracism. This pressure to conform may be especially challenging for international students who strongly identify with their country of origin, and who are reluctant to sacrifice their norms and values for the sake of fitting in.

The tension that international workers feel these days echoes a common challenge for contemporary organisations and universities. These institutions, now recognising the value of diversity and inclusion, often want to embrace difference among employees. Tolerance of difference allows each employee to bring unique and valuable perspectives to the workplace, enhancing innovation and progress. 

However, we know tolerance isn’t always guaranteed, and that many would prefer it if all minority groups assimilated to the majority’s way of doing things. Some degree of assimilation will always be necessary just so organisations can function, as a common language and way of doing things is essential for coordination and efficiency. How then, can we collectively ensure that students and workers from international backgrounds are all able to succeed and contribute, while also sparing them the pressure to give up their valuable perspectives and sense of self?

Understanding where majority group intolerance comes from

Understanding how we can help alleviate the pressures on immigrants to assimilate requires an understanding of who is generating these pressures – i.e. the native-born majority group. Throughout history, there is an abundance of examples of majority groups treating minorities poorly and, despite some progress in recent years, this is not a phenomenon that we’ve escaped.

The majority group’s desire for minority groups to conform to the majority’s norms is rooted in the fundamental dynamics of social groups. In diverse settings, the majority group typically enjoys the privileged position of representing the broader category in which they reside. For example, when people think of what it means to be a citizen of a given country, they typically think of members of the native-born majority group. This means that the majority group sets the norms to which other groups are expected to conform. Being the group that is most strongly associated with their broader context affords members of majority groups a reliable sense of inclusion and comfort. In academic terminology, we would say that majority groups are ‘prototypical’ of their broader contexts.

There are many examples of prototypicality in action. For example, in historically male-dominated professions like firefighting, men are prototypical, whereas women are not. That is, when asked to think of a firefighter, most people will think of a man. Within firefighting, stereotypically masculine traits (such as strength, stamina and decisiveness) are often privileged over stereotypically feminine one (such as compassion and patience). All of this means that women have a harder time being recognised as fitting the mould of a ‘true firefighter’. This doesn’t mean that individual men can’t also struggle to fit in, only that their gender is unlikely to be the source of these challenges in the same way that it is for women. 

International students and immigrants often face similar barriers as a result of their non-prototypicality. People who are native to their country of residence don’t have to worry whether their nationality will put them at a disadvantage in the same way that immigrants often do.

Expectations of assimilation shape bias

Compounding the disadvantage that immigrants may face given their non-prototypicality, my research highlights how the senses of group prototypicality can actually drive increases in bias against minority groups, such as international students. 

The sense of security and comfort that prototypicality affords can quickly dissipate when change is felt to be imminent. If established majority groups notice an increase in the representation of minority groups, they may feel that their prototypicality, their very sense of belonging and the sense of comfort connected to it, is threatened. The majority group may feel like they will soon be the ones who will have to worry about fitting in. My research shows that this sense of ‘prototypicality threat’ – the fear of losing prototypicality – is a powerful driver of dominant groups’ resistance to diversity.

My own research has also shown that feelings of threat are deeply influenced by prospective beliefs about whether intergroup difference will grow or shrink over time. Members of majority groups are most susceptible to prototypicality threat when they believe that minority groups are unwilling or unable to assimilate over time. In contrast, however, members of majority groups who believe that minority groups will assimilate do not experience this threat. That is, members of dominant groups are willing to tolerate some difference in the present, but only if they believe it will diminish over time.

Increasing tolerance

In light of this research, one might think it would be best for international students and immigrants to always assimilate as the best way to avoid conflict when interacting with members of their new country. 

Although my research shows that this would, indeed, reduce the discomfort felt by the native-born majority, we strongly recommend that individuals and organisations avoid this approach. As noted, some degree of assimilation will be necessary, but total assimilation will undermine diversity and inclusion goals and may come at great psychological cost to immigrants who feel attached to their identities. Furthermore, members of the majority group may still feel threatened by immigrants in other ways, like perceptions of increased competition over jobs and resources. 

Rather than sacrificing diversity to placate an anxious and privileged majority, efforts should be directed at increasing tolerance. Reminding members of the majority group that their ‘prototypicality’ is incidental, and that institutions are perpetually redefining themselves to better fit in a changing global market may be one way to reduce majority group resistance to change. Emphasising the value of diversity and inclusion for everyone may be another way to encourage members of majority groups to overcome their discomfort in welcoming international peers who retain, rather than shed, their unique backgrounds. 

Efforts to encourage inclusion will also need to be embraced and enacted by leadership. For immigrants, this may mean drawing attention to the often-subtle peer pressure that makes someone feel like their sense of belonging is conditional on assimilating. Employee resource groups where members of minority groups can talk about their experiences with those in a similar position can be beneficial as well. Mentorship programmes and town-hall meetings can ensure that communication is maintained and that any latent tensions are addressed before they lead to serious conflict. To ensure that the burden of responsibility does not fall entirely on new starters, leadership should act quickly to create these structures if they do not exist already.

None of the difficulties I’ve mentioned should dissuade anyone from choosing to study or work in another country. I genuinely believe that the experience offers unrivalled opportunities to grow knowledge, capabilities and cultural awareness. I also don’t want to suggest that intergroup conflict is inevitable, as many people will have wholly positive experiences studying or working abroad. However, given how commonplace intolerance still is, institutions should be ready to anticipate and address tensions that may emerge. I hope that international students moving on from their management programmes also remember the uniquely different perspective that they bring to organisations and the inherent added value that provides. It should not be forgotten, because it cannot be replaced. 

Recommendations for leaders in Business Schools and beyond

Here are three things that leaders in organisations can do to increase appreciation for international students and workers:

1) Prepare for some discomfort from the majority group

All people naturally get comfortable doing things in certain ways over time. This is especially true when they feel like their own way of doing things is the way that the majority of people have always done them. Introducing different and new perspectives can sometimes lead to disagreement and tension from those who would prefer that others assimilate to them, rather than the other way around. Business leaders and managers should be prepared for the possibility of complaints from members of majority groups and take steps to ensure that these unsettled individuals don’t take out their discomfort directly on the newcomers.

2) Carefully define what you value

The traits we collectively value in our institutions and organisations often inadvertently reflect the traits already associated with the majority group. If organisations reinforce this in one way or another, they may unwittingly legitimise the idea that the majority group is valued more than newcomers. Highlighting the value of the traits associated with international students and workers can both increase tolerance and dispel the notion that the majority group’s way of doing things will always be the best. Emphasising the importance of diversity and inclusion, and making a public commitment to these goals, can also help remind hesitant individuals that their organisation wants them to embrace difference. 

3) Give international students and workers a way to speak up

Belonging to a minority group can be an isolating experience, so organisations should proactively provide opportunities and spaces for international students and workers to gather together and talk about their shared experiences. Direct communication with leadership can help ensure that challenges are being identified and addressed.

Felix Danbold is Assistant Professor in Organisations and Innovation at UCL School of Management. Previously, he was a Postdoctoral Research Scholar and Visiting Assistant Professor at NYU Stern School of Business. 

Danbold holds a PhD from UCLA, where he taught and conducted research in the Psychology Department and Anderson School of Management.

This article is taken from Business Impact’s print magazine (edition: August-October 2021).

Forging partnerships that enhance gender equality

Business Impact article image for Forging partnerships that enhance gender equality.

Strong relationships between Business Schools and corporates can encourage diversity, equality and inclusion in society, write NEOMA Business School’s Sandie Pédemons and Isabelle Chevalier

Business Schools are natural partners for many organisations, from large corporations to charities and non-profits. These partnerships can be beneficial to both sides. Many organisations see partnering with Business Schools as an opportunity to gain a competitive edge, as well as providing them with access to some of the world’s best business talent of the future. 

From the Business School perspective, successful partnerships can bring exciting internship opportunities for their students, worldwide study trips, valuable projects as part of courses, and, ultimately, recruitment opportunities for their graduates. However, in recent years there has certainly been a notable trend in terms of organisations partnering with Business Schools in order to offer opportunities to students from minority groups, enhancing diversity and equality.

Partnering with Maison Veuve Clicquot

This is certainly true at NEOMA Business School, which, this year, has partnered with luxury Champagne brand Maison Veuve Clicquot to establish a scholarship programme that will finance tuition fees for 10 international female master’s in management students per year. 

Based in Reims, France, Maison Veuve Clicquot is one of the largest Champagne houses, specialising in premium products. It is credited with creating the first known vintage Champagne in 1810 and inventing the riddling table process to clarify Champagne in 1816. This established company therefore has hundreds of years of history, yet is still adapting and progressing with society, ultimately sharing a commitment to diversity and equal opportunities with NEOMA. This made it a perfect partner for our Business School. 

In essence, this scholarship programme is fully in line with our ambitions and aims to support the careers of brilliant female students who have difficulty financing their studies; scholarships are awarded on the basis of social, financial, and academic criteria. Today, young women continue to face barriers to education, so this initiative recognises the vital role that learning plays in the liberation and future success of women.

NEOMA has always taken a strong approach to gender equality, and with the support of Veuve Clicquot, we will be able to go even further by taking proactive action in favour of the talented women who join our School. 

In addition to the scholarship, students will also have opportunities to meet with members of the Veuve Clicquot management committee throughout their studies, enabling them to gain advice on their professional projects. By offering such opportunities, companies can help to encourage much greater inclusion within society for the long term. 

Enabling students from minority backgrounds to flourish

At NEOMA, we have noticed the benefits of foundations, scholarships and solidarity funds, in terms of encouraging inclusion and equality within our Business School community – especially over the past 10 years. This is now the case for companies, where issues around diversity and inclusion sit at the heart of the problems faced by managers today. Through partnerships, organisations can make long-term commitments to those from minority backgrounds by opening the doors of their companies to them, and supporting them in their success.

While initiatives to promote diversity and equality already exist within companies and educational institutions, collaboration is now essential in order to create coherence, and to lay future foundations for initiatives and goals between both sides to develop for years to come. This will ensure individuals from more minority backgrounds can be included and can ultimately flourish. 

In our opinion, it is the role of Business Schools to offer students an open and transparent window on the best of what is being done in terms of inclusion and equality in the professional world. This is all the more apparent in the current business climate, and with a generation that is particularly sensitive to these issues. Let’s not forget that societal commitment has become a lever for companies to work on their employer brand. 

Business Schools and companies therefore need to work collaboratively to raise awareness of issues surrounding equality, but also to take action; for example, through delivering salary negotiation workshops and providing scholarships to ensure access to higher education and mentoring is available for all. Only this way will more equal opportunities become available.

This is essential for gender equality – and the figures speak for themselves. Although there is a real awareness in organisations (and the legal obligations play in favour of parity) the equality deficit is still very high. With family life still mainly the responsibility of women, companies must adapt to reassure them that they will be able to develop in a professional environment that allows them to combine the two elements of their lives.

Breaking down stereotypes

And of course, some professional women still have self-limiting beliefs. Business Schools and companies must work together to break down stereotypes and repeat the message to a new generation that women can go into fields such as finance. To do this, it’s essential for women to share their stories of successfully combining a professional career with personal fulfilment. Unfortunately, these case studies are still too rare, but the joint commitment of the academic and professional worlds to achieving gender equality will be the best way to change the way things are done.

To conclude, through partnerships such as our collaboration with Veuve Clicquot, we are promoting the notion that by building relationships with companies and developing initiatives that promote equality, we can help to create future leaders who are aware that diversity and richness can be perfectly combined, and that equality can rhyme with normality. These partnerships are essential for the future success not only of our students, but of the companies and Business Schools involved, ensuring they remain current, accessible and in harmony with communities.  

Sandie Pédemons is Director of Corporate Relations at NEOMA Business School.

Isabelle Chevalier is Director of the Talent and Career Department at NEOMA Business School.

This article originally appeared in Ambition – the magazine of the Association of MBAs.

How to get reverse mentoring right – and why it’s key to tackling diversity

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Reverse mentoring in traditionally male-dominated industries allows senior male staff to gain insights into the lives, challenges, pressures, and ambitions of younger women in the business, says Steve Butler, author of Inclusive Culture

To help address the under-representation of female employees in the leadership decision-making of the organisation I work for, we have embraced reverse mentoring. This is where the mentee is the older or more senior person in the pair, and the mentor is the younger or more junior person. Although we didn’t introduce reverse mentoring solely to encourage gender equality, it has played a key role in achieving just that – motivating a significant number of women to progress their careers with us. This under-representation has been my most significant and pressing strategic issue since our business grew to 150 people through a number of acquisitions, resulting in an executive committee made up entirely of men. If resolved, it could ultimately avoid the risk of male groupthink.

Gaining insight and overcoming challenges

In reverse mentoring, the payoff for the mentee is that they gain insight into a different generation or culture and find out more about practices and ideas from someone outside their typical circle. Given the current situation in our industry (the financial services sector, which has traditionally been a very male dominated industry) women are more likely to be the mentor in this pairing. That has allowed senior male staff to gain insights into the lives, challenges, pressures, and ambitions of younger women in the business. The different perspectives also ensures there are no blind spots within the senior management team’s thinking.

Senior managers can learn from a female mentor about things that their customers might also be experiencing, feeling, believing, or liking. In the mentor role, women can gain visibility with the senior management team, displaying the talent that the company is developing as they look to the future.

Reverse mentoring can be challenging, and some of the first few meetings can be uncomfortable, or even awkward. The senior manager may struggle with taking advice from someone who is in a more junior role in the organisation. A more junior employee may not feel comfortable with being transparent about their concerns and priorities, or with challenging the thinking of someone who could hinder their career. The most important factor that will shape these meetings in the positive manner intended is mutual respect. Having respect for one another is a hallmark of a mentoring relationship, no matter who the mentee or mentor are. Respect for one another will show up in how the pair speak to one another, listen to one another, treat one another, and treat their relationship. With respect, comes trust. When mentees and mentors believe the best in someone and know they are open to giving or receiving feedback, open to learning from or teaching something to their partner, and acting with the best intentions, they build trust in them. This trust may not come easily, but it is essential for a mentoring relationship to work.

Improving team communication

At the same time as introducing reverse mentoring, our organisation also changed its business meeting structure. Meetings now begin with each attendee taking a minute or two to update the others on what’s happening in their life, particularly their personal development and wellbeing. Although there was some hesitance to this at first, everyone has now fully embraced the approach, not least because it signals that our priority as a business is the welfare of our people. Starting the meeting with a personal reflection breaks down reserve and sets the tone for the meeting. Then, when you reach the business section, people are much more transparent and responsive, and the meeting is far more productive. It also creates better understanding of what other pressures people in the team are dealing with in their lives. This can reduce disagreements and tensions, heading potential rifts off at the pass. Knowing what issues they are facing also gives insights into how to manage individuals in that team. It has improved team communication and increased openness and understanding. Critically, it has broken down the macho approach that’s so common in finance businesses, where sales and profit are the beginning, middle and end of meetings.

Women taking part in the reverse mentoring and new style of management meetings say that having their voices heard and valued has opened a door. Many have fed back that being involved in these meetings has increased their confidence and that participating in reverse mentoring has broadened their horizons.

Steve Butler, CEO of Punter Southall Aspire and author of Inclusive Culture: Leading Change Across Organisations and Industries

How far are Business Schools from achieving diversity and equality?

Abstract illustration of two duo-tone coloured hands touching the side of the palms symbolising diversity and inclusion.

Representatives of Imperial College Business School, Monash Business School and IE Business School discuss recent initiatives and programme offerings with diversity and inclusion at their heart

In order to advance fair and equal business practices, graduates of business education – and future leaders – must represent demographics as diverse as their future customers and communities. But, challenges remain to develop cultures that are inclusive across race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, religion, social class and nationality.

A session at the AMBA & BGA Global Conference 2021 brought together speakers representing the winning Business Schools in the ‘Best Culture, Diversity and Inclusion Initiative’ category of the AMBA & BGA Excellence Awards 2021. They shared examples of their strategies to nurture cultures defined by diversity and equality in their Schools and beyond.

Business School initiatives in Australia, Spain and the UK

Celia de Anca, Deputy Dean for Ethics, Diversity and Inclusion at IE Business School, outlined the LGBT+@Work initiative, which delves into marginalised populations and new perspectives. De Anca also shared her thoughts on collaboration and conversation, in terms of achieving female equality.

Imperial College Business School, meanwhile, has recently launched a year-long equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) course entitled ‘Working in Diverse Organisations’. Jöel McConnell, the School’s Executive Director of Marketing, Recruitment and Admissions, explained that this offers EDI learnings and toolkits to help students to become diverse-aware employees and leaders, able to optimise differences and create more effective organisations. He added that this is one of the first steps in Imperial College Business School’s efforts to embrace of diversity in all its forms.

Nicolas McGuigan, Director of Equity, Diversity and Social Inclusion at Monash Business School, announced its new course, specifically geared towards indigenous Australian people. The Master of Indigenous Business Leadership is a cross-disciplinary programme, complemented by a tailored offering in design thinking, together with units in law and public policy.

McGuigan also talked about his School’s Queering Accounting diversity initiative. Through numerous educational, research, and industry activities, Queering Accounting is said to have enhanced the School’s culture of dignity and respect, enriching the experience of staff and students and helping to foster social justice, with the input of key stakeholders.

Moving the conversation forwards

During the session, panellists were able to share granular insights and examples. However, given the numerous challenges to achieving genuine diversity in business education, they were keen to leave the audience with three important takeaways to help guide discussions moving forward, acknowledging that translating intellectual debates into corporate policy is difficult to get right.

1. It is important to have discussions about belonging and individuality when thinking about diversity and inclusion.

2. Belonging is about both institutional belonging (and how to foster a sense of it) and belonging to groups that may be identified by protected characteristics (such as age, race, sex, sexual orientation, religion, gender reassignment, relationship status, pregnancy and maternity, and religion and belief).

3. There should be an ongoing intellectual and philosophical debate within universities about equality, diversity and inclusion. These discussions should help inform the policies that public- and private-sector organisations put into place. 

* Celia de Anca, Deputy Dean for Ethics, Diversity and Inclusion, IE Business School, Spain
* Jöel McConnell, Executive Director of Marketing, Recruitment and Admissions, Imperial College Business School, UK
* Nicolas McGuigan, Director of Equity, Diversity and Social Inclusion, Monash Business School, Australia

This article is adapted from a feature that originally appeared in Ambition – the magazine of the Association of MBAs.

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