When describing diversity, equity, and inclusion, Karol Vieker likes to quote leading diversity and inclusion expert Verna Meyers: “Diversity is being invited to the party, inclusion is being asked to dance.”
And Vieker, diversity, equity, and inclusion manager for the Stockholm School of Economics (SSE), adds, “And then equity is being on the planning committee.”
While recruitment of diverse populations and an inclusive environment often represent the first steps in a DEI journey, the equity piece goes to the heart of the matter, says Vieker.
Participating on the planning committee requires a seat at the table and a voice to move change from the inside, but at the highest decision-making levels, most organizations lack those diverse voices, she says.
SSE looks at diversity through all those lenses. In EMBA Programs, SSE works to balance diversity, inclusion, and equity through its collaborative approach in the classroom, says Karin Wiström, director of the SSE MBA.
“For me, I think the value is bringing in as many different perspectives as possible into the room,” says Wiström. “When recruiting to the SSE MBA, we don’t talk so explicitly about DEI, but what we emphasize is the importance of bringing many diverse perspectives into the program. Then we also want to create this open and sharing learning climate where everybody will learn from one another.”
SSE developed a gender equality strategy to help attract more women to business education. Efforts to increase women in the SSE MBA include offering extra attention to potential female students, connecting them with female alumni, and sharing female perspectives in marketing materials. Messaging focuses on what the program can do for women who are interested in business.
“We have been pretty successful with recruitment,” says Wiström, with women comprising 40 percent of entering classes pre-pandemic. During the pandemic, numbers dropped, but are now back at the same level and the program will continue efforts to reach a 50 percent split in student gender.
The lack of female faculty stands as one challenge to that aim and the same problem higher education overall faces, says Vieker. As part of its gender strategy, SSE plans to increase the number of female faculty members, but with many business schools competing for a small pool of top female faculty, it will not be easy.
Vieker also works with faculty to integrate DEI in their curriculum, understanding the time pressures on them and the focus for faculty in academia on publishing. For example, she developed a one-page tip list on 10 easy ways to make your classroom more inclusive, which includes reviewing course materials for diversity and tracking talking time in class.
“There is no easy fix,” she says. “There’s no magic solution or silver bullet. It’s all about the continuation of discussing and educating and learning more from each other.”
Not wanting to rest on laurels, Wiström looks at both the numbers and student feedback. Did they learn new perspectives? Did they find the atmosphere friendly? Was everyone’s voice being heard? “Student feedback confirms that we are doing a lot of things right, but there’s always so much more to do.”
Even in tiny ways, actions can make a difference, especially when all contribute.
“Everyone can do something,” says Vieker. “It’s often a thousand of those small things that lead to really, really big change. If we approach each other with a much bigger dose of humility and compassion regardless of the content, then we’re going to come so much further.”