This BSL diversity journey began in a classroom. 11 students coming from very diverse cultures and countries were engaged in a case study in Professor Richard Pai’s “Negotiation and Leadership skills” course. Students from Russia, Colombia, South Africa, Romania, Dubai, Latvia, to name but a few nations represented that day, were present. 3 female and 8 male students – a really diverse group in every sense of the word.
In addition, this Masters group of students had already studied Marketing, Engineering, Economics, Psychology, Hotel management, Foreign Affairs, Law and Business in universities in many different countries – there was a lot of knowledge in the room that day.
I was there too. I wanted to see how a case study concerning negotiations between a city council and a mining company in the developing world would work with such a diverse group. What I actually experienced was unexpected.
Despite the wonderfully warm, friendly atmosphere and the unity of that group of students, the gender story was very much, unconsciously, in evidence that day. The male students took the lead in the ensuing negotiations, they headed up the city council and the mining company; the female students were hesitant and unsure of how to contribute to the negotiations, they were unable to make their voices heard – empowerment was not in evidence. The fact that Diana, Ekaterina and Naomi, our minority group of female students, were very frustrated was evident to me. How could I help? What about a conference organized by our students on this topic?
Diversity as a business driver
On the 16th January, Valerie Guertler Doyle, head of Diversity and Inclusion, Novartis; Brigid O’Donovan, formerly head of Diversity, in Cisco and partners of SEM Association, Neuchâtel came to BSL to talk about Diversity. Diversity as a business driver was the topic chosen by Diana, Naomi and Ekaterina, who led this initiative forward in Business School Lausanne. Students and external visitors turned up to hear our experienced speakers speak about diversity of thought, gender, race, sexual orientation and disabilities. The importance of: understanding oneself, work life balance, the danger of stereotyping, and the freedom to be oneself in the workplace and not put on the “corporate mask”, were discussed in depth. We’ve uploaded some excerpts of our discussion on YouTube:
- Overview by Eglantine Jamet-Moreau
- Story telling on diversity
- Introduction by Valerie Guertler-Doyle
Finally, the importance of diversity in improving profits for organizations and the necessity to lock diversity into the business model and to use it to the company’s advantage convinced the audience to think deeply about this issue.
The diversity journey is continuing in BSL- mission accomplished!
Mary Mayenfisch-Tobin, BCL, LL.M, Solicitor