Be Intentional About the Change We Want To See

Minh Huy LAI

I strongly believe that change will not happen with lip service and good intentions. This is exactly why I have taken it upon myself to be a catalyst for change by talking openly about my own actions at work. In doing so, I hope that others will be inspired in provoking change so that we take greater strides towards achieving gender equality.

Why push for gender equality? Because it’s 2017 and we still live in the world where only few women are in university teaching positions, company boards, senior leadership positions and government. It’s also a fact that women still get less pay for doing the same jobs as men.

Given the important place that business schools play in shaping the leaders of tomorrow, it is critical they play their part as change agents.

At INSEAD, we are working on a Gender Initiative to address several issues and areas where the School can improve. As someone completely committed to gender equality, I have provided input into the drafting of the Gender Strategy. This strategy, once adopted, will be comprehensive with measurable targets for all managers - not just paying lip-service to equality, but making it a measurable part of our business goals.

Back in March, on International Women’s Day, we talked about how INSEAD’s January 2017 class has a 38% composition of women. This was a big jump from the class that started in September 2016 that had a 30% women ratio. These ratios vary promotion by promotion and underline why it is critical that we continuously seek to implement strategies that bring about last change. Nevertheless these percentages prove that INSEAD is on the right track with its goal to get to a 40% women ratio in the next few years. It will not be easy, but we must rise up to the challenge.

The Recruitment & Admissions teams and I are very intentional about attracting and retaining top talent, especially women, to the MBA Programme. We are not shy in saying out loud that we actively and aggressively compete for them. When students arrive on our campuses for their Launch Week, we consciously structure sessions that instill key values and norms with a strong intent to build an inclusive and respectful learning environment for all. We offer individual and team coaching sessions to encourage self-awareness and reflection. To reinforce the culture of respect and open-mindedness, we strictly enforce the MBA Code of Conduct and Sexual Harassment Policy.

To be able to compete with other top MBA programmes that have more gender-balanced classrooms, INSEAD is also actively working on closing the gender gap amongst its faculty. We are also working on increasing the representation of female protagonists in our case studies – this type of subconscious bias can have significant impact in perception of women’s positions in the workforce. Outside the classrooms, my team and I work with the Student Council to improve student welfare and life at the School. We encourage all student clubs, including the Women in Business Club to be diverse and inclusive in terms of their leadership and activities. I also joined the iW50 Project which is a year-long celebration honoring the past, present and future of women at INSEAD.

I admit that I do all of this in part because it is a business objective. But for the most part, I do it because it makes sense to me on a personal and professional level. I grew up surrounded by strong women. My mother single-handedly carried my family through the difficult post-war years in Vietnam. And several times, I saw my sister step up to provide for her family when her husband lost his jobs. I admire them and I do sincerely wish for women to have the same opportunities as men do.

I have decided to be intentional and to be a positive agent for change at my work, whether in the MBA under my control or with external stakeholders that I try to influence so that my (female) colleagues and students will find an inclusive and positive environment to work or study in.