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Beyond Parity: A Call for Intersectional Gender Equality Plans for Business Schools

Prof Mustafa Ozbilgin, Brunel University London
Dr Nur Gundogdu, Brunel University London

Pursuing gender equality in European business schools, often framed as a simple matter of closing the gap between female and male faculty, requires a nuanced reimagining. Most of the Gender Equality Plans on business schools have privileged gender equality, tacitly failing to address the complexity of intersecting inequalities. As suggested by Kimberly Cranshaw, we must acknowledge the rich tapestry of intersecting identities to understand the complexity of human experience. Intersectional identities include gender, disability, ethnicity, class, age, sexual orientation, religion/belief and other locally meaningful social divisions that shape the professional experiences of every academic. Embracing intersectionality within gender equality plans is not just an ethical imperative; it’s a strategic investment in attracting, retaining, and empowering diverse scholars who will enrich the intellectual fabric of our institutions.

Imagine a departmental lounge buzzing with vibrant conversation. Each academic carries a unique narrative woven from a multitude of threads. An early-career researcher of colour navigating family commitments experiences challenges distinct from those faced by a tenured male professor from a privileged background. A disabled scholar grappling with accessibility hurdles interacts with the academic landscape differently than a neurotypical colleague. Ignoring these intricate interplays renders our efforts for gender equality akin to planting a sterile monoculture in a fertile, diverse ecosystem.

European business schools, with their global reach and renowned research environments, are uniquely positioned to champion this paradigm shift. Here are some concrete steps we can take. First, we must consider data-driven disaggregation. Move beyond aggregate gender-based analyses. Disaggregate faculty and staff demographics across all intersectional axes – disability, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, etc. This nuanced data will identify hidden disparities and inform targeted interventions. Imagine pinpointing the specific barriers faced by LGBTQ+ scholars from migrant communities and designing tailored research support programs or childcare subsidies.

Second, we need to champion curriculum evolution. Transform traditional doctoral programs and faculty development initiatives to embrace intersectional narratives. Integrate workshops on inclusive teaching practices and responsible research methodologies that explicitly address issues of gender, disability, race, and other forms of discrimination. Envision faculty development sessions on deconstructing unconscious bias in peer-review processes and designing research projects that center marginalized voices.

Third, organisations need to engage in restructuring. Prioritise diverse representation at all academic and administrative levels, from deans and department chairs to research assistants and librarians. This sends a powerful message of inclusivity and creates role models for scholars from underrepresented communities. Imagine a deaf academic finding inspiration in a successful deaf colleague leading a research group, demonstrating the vast possibilities for academic leadership.

Fourth, we must foster support networks. Establish dedicated spaces where scholars from marginalised backgrounds can connect, share experiences, and access resources. Affinity groups for women in academia, disability support networks, and mentoring programs tailored to specific ethnicities can provide invaluable support and build community. Picture a network for early-career scholars of colour, offering peer-to-peer mentoring and fostering research collaborations.

Finally, we need to build collaborative partnerships. Partner with NGOs, funding agencies, and other academic institutions working on intersectional gender equality. This fosters knowledge exchange, creates research opportunities for diverse scholars, and ensures academic efforts translate into tangible societal change. Imagine a business school collaborating with a disability rights organisation to develop accessible research facilities and funding structures, promoting inclusive research ecosystems.

Implementing these steps demands institutional commitment, resource allocation, and ongoing reflection. Yet, the rewards are immeasurable. Business schools that embrace intersectionality will not only attract and retain top talent across the academic spectrum but also foster cutting-edge research that resonates with the complexities of the global landscape. Remember, inclusivity is not a badge of honour; it’s a strategic investment in our collective intellectual future. By embracing the multifaceted realities of our academic staff, European business schools can cultivate a genuinely vibrant and inclusive scholarly community where excellence takes root not in a sterile monoculture but in the fertile garden of intersecting identities.