Doing Diversity Differently: Using my MBA to make businesses more inclusive | TopMBA.com

Doing Diversity Differently: Using my MBA to make businesses more inclusive

By Niamh O

Updated March 30, 2021 Updated March 30, 2021

Chico Chakravorty, founder of the company said: “Doing Diversity Differently is all about helping to harness the true human capital that each organisation has and to propel that internal growth by looking at the available resources through a more constructive lens.”

Diverse teams are the most successful teams – at least that’s what the data shows.

Since graduating from Durham University Business School with an MBA, Chico Chakravorty (pictured) has sought to apply his knowledge and experience to helping improve diversity in other businesses. His company, Doing Diversity Differently, helps companies and not for profits create working environments where everyone feels like they belong and that they can truly thrive.

Chico by Oliver Gillbody Chico said: “I see a number of organisations that want to change the way they look and deliver against their strategic objectives with regards to diversity and inclusion (D&I) which, as someone who is intersectional (being both a gay man and with South Asian heritage), I wholeheartedly support.

“However, when I look at the efficacy of some of the interventions that organisations adopt to reach those ambitions, they don’t follow a strategically sound path. A lot of the tangible actions that organisations undertake focus on how to attract more diverse candidates into the talent pipeline.”

“Doing Diversity Differently is all about helping to harness the true human capital that each organisation has and to propel that internal growth by looking at the available resources through a more constructive lens.”

Why diversity has to be motivated by the right reasons

Chico says he started seeing flaws in business environments during a consulting role at an executive search firm. While the work was geared towards helping clients reach a more diverse talent pool, the motivation for this was sometimes purely to satisfy the board – meaning it was no more than window dressing and virtue signalling.

He said: “For me this is hugely damaging as I’ve experienced being in workplaces where my difference wasn’t valued. Not because of my sexual orientation or my ethnicity, but my diversity of experience and therefore diversity of thought, something that I have often seen as my personal USP.

“As part of my MBA research, I decided to explore the interplay between leadership behaviours and how that impacted the level of inclusion within companies and decided that in many cases, the traditional model was broken which is where the idea for Doing Diversity Differently came from.”

Chico says he often finds leaders have a strong desire to make effectual change within their companies, but don’t know where to start with complex subject matter they have little/direct experience or knowledge of.

He said: “There are times where the drivers for diversity and inclusion initiatives are not done for the right reasons and can be really detrimental to the employee experience of those who come from different demographics.

“Surface level activities such as only recruiting people who don’t fit the standard profile that an organisation typically recruits do not create a more inclusive culture, and often diverse candidates find themselves with no option but to leave when they realise that those D&I initiatives do not truly appreciate the value they bring to the organisation.”

Chico says the methodology to implement necessary culture change from an academic perspective is relatively simplistic – but doing so without proper knowledge, structure, and buy-in behind it means those initiatives often don’t make as much progress as they could.

He said: “Through Doing Diversity Differently, I help support leaders to be ‘clumsily human’ in their learning, steering their organizations to become more inclusive and fostering that culture of belonging.”

Advice to future LGBTQ+ business students

Chico says his experience at Durham is one he looks back on positively, having met amazing people who he still regularly turns to for counsel and advice to help broaden his perspectives.

When asked about his experience specifically as an LGBTQ+ student, Chico says business school is like any environment we will find ourselves in at some point in life. There will be people you get on with and who inspire you, while some won’t feel like a joy to be around.

He said: “Some will be a huge champion and ally for those of us in the LGBTQ+ community, and others will not understand the different experiences, the different challenges we may well face in both business and in life.”

Studies and research have been carried out on the benefits and impacts more diverse workforces bring by the likes of Boston Consulting Group, McKinsey, PwC, Open for Business, INvolve, Stonewall and many others.

Chico said: “I would encourage you to take that to your business school and start challenging the way the curriculum and the right answers have always been perceived. Because some of our greatest leaders in business are just like us. And by amplifying them, we amplify our legitimacy for our seat at the leadership table which is not anywhere near as it should be.

“Be confident, know you deserve to be at business school, find those people who are going to lift you up and challenge your thinking in positive and constructive ways.”

Is enough being done in business schools to ensure inclusive environments?

From his personal experience, Chico believes business schools still need to do more to ensure the LGBTQ+ community is represented among staff and faculty, which he hopes will lead to greater levels of empathy and understanding from those in leadership roles.

However, Chico thinks the biggest hurdle to overcome for inclusion and diversity – especially in higher education – is the myth of meritocracy.

He says because of the way we assess students entering institutions, the underlying privileges that sit behind them aren’t always obvious.

An example he uses is the likely bias towards Oxbridge students over Anglia Ruskin or Oxford Brookes University students.

Chico said: “In order to get into Oxford or Cambridge, students may well have had both financial and societal advantages that made their applications stronger from an academic and an extra-curricular perspective, and therefore the cumulative biases that one student has over another continues to perpetuate some of the challenges we see in the higher education sector today.

“In order to really change this, institutions need to think about how people can be assessed in a more equal way.

“There are some fantastic initiatives out there, and a lot of dedicated students and staff working tirelessly to create more inclusive environments for all. But we still have a way to go.”

This article was originally published in March 2021 .

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Written by

Niamh is Deputy Head of Content at QS (TopMBA.com; topuniversities.com), creating and editing content for an international student audience. Having gained her journalism qualification at the Press Association, London and since written for different international publications, she's now enjoying telling the stories of students, alumni, faculty, entrepreneurs and organizations from across the globe.  

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