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.

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