Inspiring Inclusion: Advice from our MBAs

05 March 2024

As part of our International Women’s Day celebrations, we spoke to Inspiring Women from across our MBA programmes, exploring their thoughts and experiences around 2024’s theme of ‘Inspiring Inclusion’.  Read on to discover their advice for employers, as well as their hopes for an equitable and inclusive future. 

What does this year’s theme ‘Inspire Inclusion’ mean to you? 

Image of Kate, Executive MBA participant

Kate (Executive MBA participant): All too often, society normalises competition amongst women for the one female token spot or detrimental behaviour toward others because of the often scarce opportunity available to women. Inspiring inclusion, to me, encourages us to challenge these norms and focus on lifting each other up together instead of at the expense of each other. 

Turkan (Executive MBA participant): It encapsulates my commitment to fostering an environment where every individual feels valued, respected, and empowered to contribute their unique perspectives and talents. I believe that by embracing diversity, we can better understand and serve the diverse needs of our customers and the communities we operate in. 

Hannah (Global Online MBA participant): Everyone is empowered to ‘inspire inclusion’, making this year’s theme highly inclusive. The theme emphasises that we are all responsible for creating an environment where everyone can thrive and be their best self.    

U-may (Full-time MBA participant): In delving into the theme of 'Inspire Inclusion' this year, my heart envisions a world stripped of biases, stereotypes, and discrimination— It envisions a harmonious tapestry where diversity not only exists, but is celebrated. To inspire inclusion is to sow the seeds of a world that is not only equitable but also resonates with the vivacity of difference. 

How has exclusion presented itself to you?  

Image of Turkan, Executive MBA participant

Turkan: One significant aspect where exclusion is evident is in the persistent salary gap between male and female executives. The realisation that I may be earning less than my male counterparts solely based on gender can be disheartening and frustrating. It not only undermines my professional accomplishments but also sends a message that my contributions are somehow less valuable simply because of my gender. 

Kate: I’ve been excluded because I’m a woman who is perceived as "too young" to have had the experience and career I’ve had so far, and sadly this exclusion has been due to prejudice of other older women, which I believe is due to society's influence and their own incredible struggle to get to their positions. 

U-may: Reflecting on my journey, the shadow of exclusion in the business realm is undeniable and pervasive. There were instances where my voice, deserving of attention, was drowned out in male-dominated working cultures. It was disheartening to witness my opinions and ideas ignored, only to be acknowledged when expressed by male counterparts—leaving me to question the systemic issues at play. However, it is in the face of such challenges that resilience and determination is fostered. 

How can we create workplaces that are free of bias, stereotypes and discrimination? What makes a progressive employer in the arena of inclusion? 

Image of Hannah, Global Online MBA participant

Hannah: A progressive employer in the arena of inclusion must have strong values regarding diversity, equity and inclusion. Importantly, these values should be role-modelled by senior leaders. Whilst policies can help to boost inclusion, an optimal environment is best achieved through consistently putting inclusive behaviours into practice every day.    

Kate: Education is very important, as are processes that make things fair and remove any space for misunderstanding. If a leader creates inclusive rituals, routines and deliberately uses inclusive behaviours it will trickle down. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true.   

Turkan: Emphasise a merit-based culture where ideas and contributions are valued above all else. Encourage open dialogue and constructive feedback to ensure that the best ideas, regardless of their source, are given due consideration. Utilise data analytics to identify and address any biases in hiring, promotion, or compensation practices. And finally, regularly review employee data to ensure that opportunities for growth and advancement are distributed equitably. 

U-may: Creating workplaces free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination demands a profound shift in mindset. Progressive employers are those who recognise the inherent strength in diversity, fostering an environment where individuals are not confined by preconceived notions but are allowed to flourish based on their merit and potential. Imagine blind recruitment processes, where qualifications speak louder than gender, and leadership teams that mirror the diversity of the workforce. 

What’s your advice to any women reading this? 

Image of U-may, Full-time MBA participant

U-may: Be unafraid to be yourself, let confidence be your armour, carry the mantle of humility, and let your liveliness be the melody that defines your journey. Be authentic not as a concession, but as a celebration of yourself. Your uniqueness isn't a liability; it propels progress. Stand tall, let your voice echo through change, and use humility as your compass, forging a path towards collective success by connecting diverse voices. 

Kate: Remember that you also have bias, educate yourself and try to be compassionate to others' experiences. Getting angry and showing this frustration in the world of business is rarely celebrated. Try to channel it into making a difference, and, if you can’t, find somewhere you can! 

Turkan: The path to success is rarely linear, and there will be obstacles along the way. Embrace failure as an opportunity to learn and grow stronger. Don't be afraid to take calculated risks and step outside of your comfort zone. Never forget your inherent worth and the contributions you bring to the table. Your voice, your ideas, and your presence matter. 

Discover more about our commitment to a gender-balanced future, and meet more of our Inspiring Women.