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留学参考:How Business Schools Can Drive Workplace Diversity

Championing workplace diversity starts atbusiness school

Business schools are uniquely placed tobring together people from different backgrounds, argues Heather McGregor.

By Heather McGregor

Published: 06Nov 2017

Last Updated:06 Nov 2017

Let’s start with the word ‘diversity’. What does it mean today?Back in 2010, when Dame Helena Morrissey set up the 30% Club to get more womenonto public company boards, it largely meant diversity of gender. Recently,ethnic minorities have moved more front and centre of the diversity debate.

 Diversity in the workplace can also be aboutable-bodiedness, socioeconomic background, religion or sexual preference. Inthe future, diversity in the workplace will be diversity of education, of ageand stage of life.

Business schools, I would argue, are already so successful intheir pursuit of diversity that it almost goes unnoticed - diversity, that is,of nationality. Most business students sit alongside a wider range of peers bynationality than any other student body. Why do we not point this out moreoften?   Any why have we been so successful? How can business schoolstake this success and apply it to other forms of diversity?

In a truly global talent market, employers want the widestpossible range of skills and thought, and they want to bring that together infunctioning teams. Are there any other institutions better equipped to do thisthan business schools?

Business school is a great leveler. I was a student at LondonBusiness School in the early 1990s, in a class of 64 studying for an‘executive’ MBA. This meant I was juggling an MBA with a full-time job (and forgood measure, a relatively new husband and a brand new baby). I remember beingvery smug about my GMAT score, only to realise that the other 63 people in theclass were cleverer than me and had more interesting business experience.

In spite of being taught by such inspirational scholars and teachersas Charles Handy, Andrew Likierman, and Rob Goffee, many of the lifelong skillsI took from business school were thanks to the engineer from Jaguar who sharedinsights into producing a world-class luxury good at scale. My assigned workgroup included a senior manager in a homeless charity, a salesperson at aninvestment bank, and an operations director at a utilities company. How muchmore diverse can you get?

What helps the development of our students is, of course, thediversity of our faculty. Business school faculty are more diverse thanmainstream university colleagues, by age, nationality, experience(practitioners like me are more and more common) and of course first degreedisciplines. There are so many sociologists and historians working in businessschools that I am surprised there are any left to fill sociology and historydepartments. 

It is this ability of business schools to draw people in fromall backgrounds and send them out with the common language of business,commitment to teamwork, and an understanding of management and leadership, thatmakes them the most effective promulgators of diversity in the workplace.

Ten years ago I started a foundation to train black and minorityethnic graduates to help them access careers in corporate communications. The10-week intervention sought to level the playing field between the averagewhite middle class workplace entrant and those from minority backgrounds.

The programme drew its entire cohort for several years from theUniversity of East London, after the then vice-chancellor stood me outside thedoor of his business school, pointed to Canary Wharf, and challenged me to getmore of his graduates into jobs there.

In designing the programme I sought to do the things thatbusiness schools do: give participants relevant skills for today’s workplace,including a common business language, and to build them a network, not justwith each other, but with the wider world.

That is what we, as business schools, do so well. We give peoplefrom all walks of life the ability to operate effectively in the workplace anddeliver contacts and links that will last a lifetime.  We put a brand anda qualification on to people’s CVs that is easily understood by employers, evenwhen they can’t work out if the applicant is a male or a female because theirname is so unfamiliar. As a community we must ensure that we draw on the mostprovocative thinking in root disciplines to ask what does it mean to organiseeffectively.

How will business schools do this in the future? I suggest thereare four key approaches.

First, to attract people from across the age and life-stagespectrum we will need to have good access routes, and make sure that they arewell publicised.  While most business schools offer entry towell-qualified candidates without a first degree, the perception is stillstrong that a postgraduate degree in management is just that – post a degree.

Next, we will need to deliver distributed learning. This meanshaving multiple touch points for the student: online, on campus, with thirdparty tutors, with alumni, whatever it takes. The customer who can design theirown learning experience from a set of building blocks, in the time and at thepace they wish, will be drawn from the most diverse student group of all.

Another key to a level playing field will be experientiallearning. Other professions put a lot of emphasis on observing theory put intopractice (think nurses, doctors, teachers) and business schools need to do thistoo. We can’t be a profession if we don’t take practice seriously. 

Finally, social capital. While we all design our programmes todeliver very specific human capital outcomes, teaching people how to build anetwork, and then providing them with the opportunity to do so, and measuringhow effective that is, is rare if not entirely absent from the business schooltoday.

Business schools have a role to play as brokers across the manydivides that separate people today. We are already creating - and will continueto do so better than anywhere else - the diverse workforce of the future.

Heather McGregor is executivedean of Edinburgh Business School, the graduate school of management ofHeriot-Watt University. She is also a former MT columnist.

This article is an extract from Rethinking Business Education (ed. Della Bradshaw).

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