Yesterday morning, Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, Dean of UCD Smurfit School, and Niall Fitzgerald, Chairman of the Board, introduced the College’s vision for the future. The strategy includes focuses on high quality faculty, international relevance, and thoughtful linkages with Ireland’s existing strengths across business and culture. In addition to covering strategy, the group teed off with remarks from Mr. Fitzgerald on “Ireland in a Post-Brexit World” which considered the impactions of geopolitical shifts on Irish business and the college itself. I was grateful to join the UCD Board and friends of the college as emcee for the program.
Most refreshing for me (confessedly inclusion obsessed in my work with Unified Theater, The Kelsey, and beyond), was the very real emphasis put on inclusion throughout the session. For Mr. Fitzgerald and Dean Ó hÓgartaigh, inclusion wasn’t something soft or nice that you did simply because you ought to, it was a strategic choice as something that would make universities, communities and yes, businesses, stronger.
Mr. Fitzgerald referenced his time as Chairman and CEO of Unliver and the impact inclusion had on their strategy. He noted that inclusion wasn’t just something you do to be nice or get awards for being a good businessman, but something you do because it makes your company more competitive and sustainable in attracting talent, addressing challenging issues, and building a consumer base. Dean Ó hÓgartaigh noted the value of inclusion both within business classrooms at UCD for the new perspectives and business case approaches, as well as the long term benefits of a diverse student base that make impact across the globe in various sectors. A piece in The Irish Times in January 2016 would echo their insights, quoting executives from major companies on the importance of diversity and inclusion. One KPMG executive noted the ways diversity helps to attract and retain talent. Another executive, from PayPal, spoke to the impact diversity and inclusion has had on the company’s ability to define and execute better strategies with critical thinking that includes many different perspectives.
The case for diversity and inclusion extends beyond Ireland, and beyond business. Stephen Frost speaks to his work in the London Olympics and with companies across the world in his book The Inclusion Imperative. Working with many inclusion sceptics throughout his career, Frost learned early on how to make the hard case for inclusion. His book notes that discrimination against women, homosexuals, and people with disabilities costs the United States an estimated staggering $64bn annually. Randy Lewis, a former executive at Walgreens, touts the positive impact that a workforce inclusive of people with disabilities had on company performance. More inclusive business units out-performed others in production, fewer safety incidents, and better employee performance. Christie Hunter Arscott travels the globe speaking about the benefits of making sure women and millennials have a real seat at the table, and the ways companies can take steps to do so. Experts and leaders – like Frost, Lewis, and Hunter Arscott – have helped ensure that the benefits of inclusion across gender, ethnicity, and ability are well documented. A diverse workforce and an ability to speak to a diverse consumer base is invaluable to a company’s and a country’s success.
Whether you think diversity and inclusion is the right thing to do or not (which, I’ll happily argue over a pint or a coffee all the reasons it is…), it’s surely the smart thing to do. And, in a time of Brexits and Trumps, where some political movements emphasize exclusion and isolation, business could play an important role in creating a more connected more inclusive world. As businesses, and business colleges, continue to recognize the real benefits of inclusion they may be able to promote inclusion and openness in the communities and countries they exist within.
Micaela Connery ~ Full-Time MBA
Micaela is a full-time MBA student and a Mitchell Scholar. She completed her MPP at Harvard Kennedy School.