How to overcome barriers to more successful EDI.

How to overcome barriers to more successful EDI

7 June 2022

The article at a glance

A discussion panel at Cambridge Judge Business School explores how to overcome barriers to more successful EDI (equality, diversity, inclusion) strategies.

Mauro Guillén
Professor Mauro Guillén

Have we heard too many excuses for why EDI (equality, diversity, inclusion) strategies aren’t leading to the difference we all want to see?

An event entitled ‘Levelling the playing field: dynamics or excuses for not moving beyond the status quo’ was hosted on 12 May by Cambridge Judge Business School with the aim of raising awareness around the issue of gender representation and involving the wider community, including industry and employers, as part of the Business School’s long-term plans to create a co-ordinated approach to addressing deep-rooted societal issues around EDI.

Professor Mauro Guillén, Dean of Cambridge Judge, commented: “This is the most important topic that was discussed during my first week as a Dean, and it still is. A lot has been done over the last few months: we have created an EDI committee and appointed an EDI Manager. Internally, our EDI working groups comprise student and alumni representation, and we are revising our staff and student processes to reflect the diversity of our community, aiming to create a true sense of belonging for all. We are encouraging more action around diversifying teaching and curriculum, but we know this requires a shift in thinking and culture and that will take time.

“We understand we are unique in the make-up of our community as we attract students, faculty and staff from all over the world, and we want to learn from our students and alumni as they have wider experiences. Therefore, we made special effort to invite students and alumni to participate in today’s event.” he said.

The key role of senior leadership in achieving EDI progress was discussed at length during the event.

“We need senior leaders to be role models and actively help making changes. If senior leaders are not involved, EDI can’t work. Business schools have an important role in educating senior leaders on EDI and we especially need to engage women to attend our courses,” said event moderator Gina Warren, who has worked with the University of Cambridge on EDI issues for 14 years.

“Curriculum is important. It’s not all about numbers; it’s about the diverse experience the School must be able to offer to the senior leaders of the future,” said Dame Sandra Dawson, KPMG Professor Emerita in Management Studies at Cambridge Judge and 53rd person to be inducted into the International Women’s Forum Global Hall of Fame and the first woman to head a Cambridge College founded for men when she became Master of Sidney Sussex College in 1999. Sandra has a long-standing interest in gender equality and a deep understanding of the subject from her experience in executive and non-executive positions in academia, commercial businesses, public services, NGOs and charities.

“In the end the imbalance in gender related disparity cannot be fully addressed without some form of affirmative action.” said Tomasz Ujejski, Co-Founder and Chairman of Tailwind Energy. In earlier years Tom was an elite rower and, following his own rowing career, he spent many years coaching elite female athletes. He has been dedicated to gender-focussed equality of treatment both in this role as well as in other roles over the years – including as a partner in a global law firm, director and owner of a business, and board member of various voluntary organisations.

“The problem lies with the imbalance of power. It’s not just about a stronger presence of men or women,” said Stewart Grimshaw, restaurateur, bookseller, and Chair of The Monument Trust, who is an Advisory Board member of Cambridge Judge. Stewart further commented that engagement with the charity sector is vital in preventing longer term societal inequalities for the most underrepresented groups.

“EDI is a multifaceted topic. As soon as we open a discussion, we immediately realise that there are so many implications, so many dimensions to it. We have started the conversation, but this is not a quick fix and all we can do, going forward, is act together to try and influence the culture around us. We all need to understand that more diverse teams make better investment decisions,” said Cassie Lloyd Perrin, Head of Strategy at Level 20 and alumna of Cambridge Judge (Management Studies Tripos 2009).

One point raised by the (remote and in-person) audience was that EDI conversations usually tend to focus on women and gender, but some struggles around EDI can be associated with other issues such as parenthood or caring for an elderly relative.

“Cambridge Judge Business School aspires to become a leader in business excellence through equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) in everything we do,” reflected Manaz Javaid, EDI Manager at Cambridge Judge and lead organiser of the event. “We are now in the initial stages of hosting a Global EDI Forum, in collaboration with leading business schools in the UK and beyond. We seek to make a meaningful and lasting contribution to the world in the task of promoting a sustainable and equitable future for all, and for this to happen we want to work with industry, local organisations and the education system to affect change at a grass roots level. That was exactly the aim of this event, but we need to be aware that the discussion will take a long time, and involvement from all parts, before we can see real progress.

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