I want people to talk about injustices
Being part of this diverse culture has been invaluable preparation for chairing DIBAB. Professor Ethiraj explains the differences between diversity, inclusion and belonging – three terms that are often lumped together: “Diversity is measurable. We are working to improve the diversity data the School collects to get a better picture of the diversity of our community. But diversity is also about people’s life experiences, the unique cultures from which they come. Conservatively, we have 60 countries represented in the student population and 38% women, on average, in our various degree programs. Diversity is about this data – and we want to continue to increase the diversity of our student pool.
“But these personalities must also be represented in our staff and faculty. We are proud that there are 38% women in our study programs, but we do not yet have 38% women in the faculty. So how do you get there? We really have to push. The same is true for racial and ethnic, as well as socio-economic diversity. School employees need to more closely reflect what our students are like.
Inclusion, he says, encompasses politics and culture, and aims to make the environment inclusive: “You can be diverse without being inclusive. It’s not just about hiring more women and black professors, for example. It’s about having policies that make people feel welcome for who they are and included for their individual backgrounds and experiences. There are many organizations that on paper seem very diverse, but are not at all inclusive. Because you’ll be talking to these people and they’ll be like, “No, I’m not invited to things, I’m being kept out…” So what policies should we have to make sure everyone feels included ?
“As part of this effort, a year ago, three networks were created within the staff community: PROUD, our LGBTQ+ network; PAC, our network of parents and guardians; and BEN, our network of black employees.
Which brings us to the final element: belonging. According to Professor Ethiraj, this is how people feel, regardless of the policies in place. “You may be diverse, you may have the policies to create inclusion, but are they working? Do these people really feel like they belong? Simply inviting to an event may not be enough. If people feel out of place or uncomfortable, what you’re doing isn’t working. Do women in the School feel less of a sense of belonging than men? Do our black colleagues at school feel less of a sense of belonging than our white colleagues? We need to be sensitive to designing policies and implementing initiatives to help people feel like they belong. »
Professor Ethiraj says his committee members are passionate at DIBAB meetings, but conflicts are rare. The tone he sets is that everyone should feel free to express themselves without being judged: “I take care to tell them that we don’t think of ourselves in this role; we are debating the best position for the School, otherwise there would be no room for common ground.
Discomfort and debate
One of the policies that has changed under his leadership is the Enhancing Dignity in Schools Policy, which guides harassment and bullying. “This policy repeatedly referred to employees and the employment contract, meaning staff and faculty members,” he says. “When I dealt with a student who was being bullied, she told me that she had reviewed this policy and felt that it ‘wasn’t there’ and it didn’t apply to her. , so this policy needed to be updated to make it more inclusive for our student community.
He also inaugurated three new policies; for trans equality, menopause and safety statement. All three have been debated at length. He reveals, “It was a challenge to make people feel comfortable expressing themselves. They all have strong opinions on issues like trans equality, and when people have strong opinions, the debate can be over very quickly. I said, very clearly, ‘There will be no judgment on your personal opinions. The focus here is: how can we be inclusive without some people feeling excluded? I encouraged people to discuss their discomfort and created a policy from that. Did everyone agree 100%? Maybe not, but no one felt like they weren’t heard.
The politics of menopause has also led to an intensified debate. Some women on the board felt that there were already enough stereotypes around the issue and that creating a policy would only reinforce them. “We had a separate 90-minute meeting to lay out these issues and it turned into a very civil and reasoned debate,” Prof Ethiraj says. “Those who felt it was important to have a menopause policy convinced the other group. The benefit I came away with was to raise awareness among line managers so they don’t resort to these stereotypes. »
AI trade and New York taxis
Far from the DIBAB and his role as a professor, Professor Ethiraj is absorbed by his own research projects. “First of all, I look at the entry of AI into business,” he says. “Today, the human skill of trading stocks and shares is increasingly performed by machines. Humans are good at judgment, but very, very slow as the volume of information increases. machines are much faster at processing information so I watch how mutual fund managers respond to machine driven trading This involves looking at very large sets of data – I have data on every trade made by a large fund, for each quarter for the past 10 years, and there are 6,000 funds.
“My other project is about ridesharing platforms in New York. I managed to get the data on every ride taken by Uber, Lyft and Yellow Cabs in New York over a period of six years. We are looking at how these platforms interact The literature largely thinks that each platform’s policies only impact that platform, but then you have these phenomena where there can be drivers on both platforms. , it turns out, is not so easy.
Students lead the way
The same goes for two of his biggest goals for DIBAB. The first is to make people feel that they have a voice and that their voice is heard. He calls this “the slog element,” saying, “Politicians can’t do much. They tell people things, but they don’t really encourage behavior change. The hope is that over a period of time talking about the issues, promoting the important stories, celebrating some of what is happening in the pockets of the School, will set an example for everyone. If they see things being celebrated, they’ll think, “Maybe I should do that too.
“My second goal is to get people talking about injustices in a less threatening way, so they become active bystanders. Even though we now have a mechanism that allows for anonymous reporting, the more people will feel empowered. expressing themselves, the less they will need to. Our students are way ahead of us in this regard – they are an incredibly committed body. I hope they will be at the forefront of bringing the institution together of our ideal. They have great ideas, they’re really committed, they push. They demand – and that’s right. They should push. They deserve better.
“So what’s our endgame?” We want to look like our students.
Sendil Ethiraj is Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship at London Business School
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