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News - 26 August 2016

How Business Schools Can Support Workplace Gender Equality

26 August 2016 | PRME Secretariat -- Many businesses and organisations are increasingly aware of the case for promoting gender equality, both within and outside their organisational boundaries. The annual observance of Women's Equality Day underscores the way that organisations still need to improve equalitly measures that support women at work. A business case can be made for this, too. Plenty of evidence suggests that gender equality in the workplace boosts performance. Meanwhile, legal frameworks in many countries mandate specific actions against inequality in the workplace.

However, despite organisational policies on promoting equality and equal opportunities, there remain challenges to be overcome in many businesses, including throughout their supply chains. Many of these challenges can be overcome through education, particularly through established institutions and organisations that embed principles of equality and gender-sensitive teaching into their curriculum. 

Within the Principles for Responsible Management Education initiative is a framework that compels business and management-related higher education institutions to integrate teaching methods that support social progress, such as gender equality in the workplace. 

Jonas Haertle, the Head of the PRME initiative, says institutions that demonstrate leadership on gender equality often produce some of the most successful business students who later go on to establish or manage successful companies.

“By integrating the gender dimension into the Six Principles of PRME, business and management-related higher education institutions can produce ethical and responsible leaders of the 21st century,” Haertle says. “This ensures a world where business can become a key driver of the success of Sustainable Development Goal 5 which focuses on total gender equality.”

Examples of business and management schools that lead on gender equality are quite strong. For instance, INCAE Business School in Costa Rica has a strong focus on promoting gender-sensitive teaching. Their 2016 SIP report shows several courses provided to business students that stress the role of women’s leadership and opportunities for businesses to grow through diversity and gender balance. There is also a student-led club that develops campus activities highlighting gender equality at work.

There are also ways that schools themselves can support gender equality within their own walls. For example, ESC Dijon Bourgogne - Burgundy School of Business in France, which like INCAE is also an advanced PRME signatory, has a strict policy that guarantees workplace equality through hiring practices, equal pay, and protections against harassment. As outlined in their most recent SIP report, 83% of training actions concerned women in 2015; 69% of salary increases, and 82% of new recruitment also concerned women.

Promoting gender equality is also possible for existing businesses. A new PRME resource provided in partnership with Greenleaf Publishing, called Overcoming Challenges to Gender Equality in the Workplace, shows strategies and innovative policies that support gender balance at work. This publication is available to all advanced PRME signatories at a discounted rate. 

While the long-term challenges to achieving gender equality may seem daunting, it is clear that leadership and forward-thinking ideas are already taking root in the world's business and management schools. This will help the world achieve SDG5, and ensure that women receive the benefits and opportunities they deserve.

26 Aug 2016

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