What is the Professor Pledge?
The Professor Pledge for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) in Business School Cases is a commitment from professors at business schools globally to utilize and advance case studies with diverse protagonists and cases on topics related to DEI.
If you are a professor at any business school, take this Professor Pledge to:
- Support inclusive curriculum material
- Advance the sense of belonging among diverse students and better equip them for success
- Join us in building a more equitable educational environment and business world
Case studies – using real life business situations or imagined business scenarios – are a key pedagogical tool for instruction within management education programs. However, most published case studies used in business schools primarily showcase white male protagonists1 and neglect to address topics related to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) that are critical for new generations of business leaders to navigate.
The lack of diverse case study protagonists reinforces a status quo in which traditional business leaders are primarily both male and white. This disproportionate representation unintentionally promotes an association of leadership ability with masculinity. Highlighting only one model of leadership can signal to people who do not identify as White and male that they are not suited for leadership. It also deprives students of alternative role models.2
Even when cases have protagonists that are not white men, case studies often perpetuate harmful stereotypes and gender norms – such as women being depicted as more emotional, less visionary, and less agentic than men.3,4 In addition, cases with female protagonists tend to be in “pink-collar occupations”.5 Other stereotypes and implicit biases related to race, national origin and age are reinforced in cases as well.6
There is significant educational value for students exposed to cases with diverse protagonists and/or on DEI topics. Students who are exposed to diverse business leaders benefit from a role model effect; students who can relate to diverse leaders enjoy better self-perceptions, feel more confident7, and perform better in the classroom.8
Integrating case studies related to diversity, equity and inclusion can: (1) foster cultural sensitivity among students9; (2) equip students to manage real-life scenarios in which varying perspectives and lived experiences are at play; (3) prepare students for increasingly diverse workplaces where DEI is a strategic advantage; and (4) engage students in critical and timely discussions while offering them strategies to promote equity and inclusion throughout the business.
The Center for Equity, Gender, and Leadership (EGAL) at the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business recognizes the importance of addressing the diversity gap among protagonists in business school case studies. We also recognize the lack of diversity, equity, and inclusion topics covered in business school education.
To tackle this, in 2020, EGAL developed a Case Compendium with two sections: (a) case studies with diverse protagonists, and (b) case studies that build “equity fluency” by focusing on DEI-related issues and opportunities. EGAL also conducted an analysis of these cases to outline trends among the case studies collected and recommendations for action.
We realize more is needed to advance DEI in business school case studies and in the classroom. As part of our commitment at EGAL, we seek to support and incentivize professors to use cases with diverse protagonists and incorporate topics of DEI into courses. Hence, the Professor Pledge.
Making a personal commitment can help move us as educational leaders towards creating a more equitable educational environment and business world, while also preparing all students for success. Individuals who take the pledge, will also be able to receive updates from EGAL with information, tips and cases to apply to help bring the commitments to life. Tips can include, for example, how to discern cases that may perpetuate harmful stereotypes and norms.
What am I pledging?
- I commit to seek out and, where possible, use cases with diverse* protagonists.
- If and when writing case studies, I commit to prioritize using a range of diverse* protagonists.
- I commit to using language in my cases and class discussions that does not discriminate against historically marginalized groups or perpetuate harmful stereotypes and norms.
Note: Even if only 1-2 of the commitments above are relevant for your particular position, we encourage you to still take the pledge!
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Have any questions? Please reach out to us at [email protected].
* We define diversity as incorporating the wide variety of shared and different personal and group characteristics among human beings (including but not limited to Race, Ethnicity, Gender, Age, Ability, Religion, Sexual Orientation, Socio-economic Status, etc.). We use “diverse” purposefully as an umbrella term to refer to groups of people with a wide variety of characteristics. Identities besides White, cis, heterosexual men have historically been underrepresented as protagonists in business school case studies.
1 Moules, J. (2018, September 24). MBA Case Studies Lack Female Leaders. Retrieved from https://www.ft.com/content/036144a8-9f07-11e8-85da-eeb7a9ce36e4
2 Symons, L., & Ibarra, H. (2014, April 28). What the Scarcity of Women in Business Case Studies Really Looks Like. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2014/04/what-the-scarcity-of-women-in-business-case-studies-really-looks-like
3 Soule, S. A., Drabkin, D., & Mackenzie, L. (2019, June 24). The Stereotypes in MBA Case Studies. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2019/06/the-stereotypes-in-mba-case-studies
4 Sharen, C. M., & McGowan, R. A. (2018, November 9). Invisible or Clichéd: How Are Women Represented in Business Cases? – Colleen M. Sharen, Rosemary A. McGowan, 2019. Retrieved from https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1052562918812154?journalCode=jmed
5 According to Merriam-Webster, “pink-collar”constitutes “a class of employees in occupations traditionally held by women.” This may include jobs in social work, education, or child care. They tend to also be low status occupations.
6 Soule, S. A., Mackenzie, L., & Drabkin, D. (2018, November 9). The Stereotypes in MBA Case Studies. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2019/06/the-stereotypes-in-mba-case-studies
7 Ammerman, C., Trumbore, A., & Ajayi-Ore, L. (2019, June 24). The Case for Female Protagonists – Harvard Business Publishing Education. Retrieved from https://hbsp.harvard.edu/inspiring-minds/the-case-for-female-protagonists
8 Ammerman, C., Trumbore, A., & Ajayi-Ore, L. (2019, June 24). The Case for Female Protagonists – Harvard Business Publishing Education. Retrieved from https://hbsp.harvard.edu/inspiring-minds/the-case-for-female-protagonists
9 (2018, October 17). Landu, J. Why Cultural Sensitivity Should Be A Forethought Not An Afterthought. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesnycouncil/2018/10/17/why-cultural-sensitivity-should-be-a-forethought-not-an-afterthought/#3e6db5fd1b69