Why Diversity is Important in an MBA Program

Why Diversity is Important in an MBA Program main image

Sponsored by HEC Paris

Why is an understanding of diversity important in business today? Part of the reason is that progressive businesses are increasingly embracing diversity, not least because it makes good business sense. According to research by McKinsey & Co, businesses with employees from a healthy mix of ethnic backgrounds are 35 percent more likely to outperform competitors.

With its multicultural campus and progressive faculty, the HEC Paris MBA is better placed than many to address the importance of diversity in the business world. Professor Matteo Winkler, who teaches a completely new course within the MBA called Diversity & Inclusion Strategy, says: “Societies change quickly nowadays, and corporations obviously tend to follow them, in some instances even surpass them. Both strongly demand that the youngest generations get accustomed to living in a more and more diverse and inclusive environment.”

Given how diverse the top progressive companies are becoming, an experience of diversity before entering the workplace can be vital. By studying an MBA that has a diversity component, and especially on a multicultural campus such as HEC Paris’, students will also have gained a theoretical background as to how to manage diversity and ensure inclusion.

Winkler has found it exciting to learn from students’ experiences on this subject since starting the new D&I course at HEC Paris. “It was a privilege for me to see my students sharing their personal experiences of stereotyping in their countries of origin,” he says.

“Each of them has a story to tell, and all they need is a context in which this can happen without filters or barriers due to biases or prejudices. Is there a better place to do so than a course on D&I?”

Winkler relates an instance in which the class was discussing ‘covering’ – i.e. being pressured to conform to the stereotypes of the dominant class. “A female student from a country of East Asia confessed that she had refused to ‘cover’ when examined by a panel of three men to obtain the scholarship for her MBA.

“The panel, she recalled, was likely to dislike a wife leaving her husband to go to Europe to study for a year and half, but she decided to be herself and use her freedom to pursue high education as a point of strength. She obtained the scholarship,” explains Winkler.

Expertise in diversity in business is only going to be more in demand in the future. Top corporations in different industries including Google, Facebook, Salesforce and Airbnb have already appointed managers and executives whose primary mission is to manage diversity and ensure inclusion.

“Intuitively, potential recruiters see an added value in graduates with a background in diversity and inclusion,” says Winkler.

Beyond the course, Winkler has started a new panel series for students called DiversiTALKS, which focuses on diversity in business. This new initiative is run with  LGBT+ Business, the LGBT club within the MBA, and financed by the Dean's Office.

“It consists of three to four events each year where we invite corporate officers and/or experts in particular fields to talk to our students about the potential of diversity policies in business and of the multicultural environment in which our society lives,” Winkler explains. “So far, we’ve had guests from Accenture, Amazon, BCG, BNP Paribas, IBM and Sodexo.”

One DiversiTALKS was on the theme 'being yourself at work'. Among the speakers at this event was Rica Paras, a transgender woman working at Accenture. Paras told of how being a great manager and at the same time not concealing one’s personal side is essential to her being able to perform her work at 100 percent capacity.

“We all know that today it’s hard to keep private life out of the workplace,” Winkler says. “The event showed that bringing one's own personal experience in the workplace on a daily basis helps talents to flourish, increases productivity and ensures a better working environment.”

Another DiversiTALKS focused on the #MeToo debate. The discussion involved the entire audience, generating questions about the definition of sexual harassment and how to tackle it. Experts from both the legal and journalism industries explained their views.

The next event is being organised by the LGBT+ Business Club and In&Out, two students associations at HEC, and will be on the link between diversity and performance.

Thanks to new courses like D&I at HEC Paris, not to mention innovations such as DiversiTALKS, MBA students can gain a real knowledge of the value of diversity in business, which is clearly of increasing importance. Apart from anything else, this will give them a strong advantage in the increasingly multicultural business world. As Winkler explains, graduates will gain an “arsenal they will be able to use not only in the workplace but also in life.”

“For example, my D&I students should be able to detect biases and deconstruct them; to understand, at least in general terms, when the law sanctions situations of discrimination in a corporate setting; and to speak out if they feel uncomfortable with certain situations,” he says. “The last one is certainly the most important of all.”

Written by Staff W.

See related categories:

Log in from the top right-hand corner or click here to register to post comments