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The Women Deans Of Europe: Leading The Fight For Gender Equality

Diane Morgan is associate dean of programs at Imperial College London Business School. Courtesy photo

Diane Morgan is associate dean of programs at Imperial College London Business School. Courtesy photo

‘I AM OFTEN THE ONLY WOMAN IN THE ROOM — HOW DO WE CHANGE THAT?’

At Imperial, while women currently represent 30% of the 69 faculty members, “I realized early on that a lot of times I was the only senior person that was a woman in the discussion,” says Morgan, who also has worked at NYU Stern and done consulting for UCLA Anderson, and who now works as a sort of “right-hand person” to Imperial Dean G. “Anand” Anandalingam. “So I have kind of a typical path in term of being a champion of gender. When you’re younger, you don’t always realize that it’s necessary — I had some great mentors and sponsors thought my career and they were men and women — and that’s the same when I moved over to Imperial and trusted my partnership with the dean. But what was interesting was, gender was a bigger issue in terms of, ‘Well, I am often the only woman in the room — and how do we change that?’”

Morgan has promoted change both internally at Imperial and elsewhere. She is part of a group that looks at gender equity for the entire population of the B-school — “Is this a good, diverse place to work? Is our promotion track for academic faculty fair? Do we have women on hiring committees?” — that touches everything from HR to family-friendly policies to role models. She also helped female students start a women in business society, and she regularly speaks to groups of students, men and women, about the importance of gender. “That’s probably my biggest thing,” she says. “We need to make sure that men and women are having this conversation together.”

Outside the college, Morgan is an advocate for the 30% Club, a movement started in London by Newton Investment Management CEO Helena Morrissey to get 5,100 boards to commit to make sure that at least 30% were comprised of women. The movement has since expanded globally — and into the realm of higher ed, where Morgan, working with a group of chairmen that are committing publicly that they are going to change the makeup of their boards, serves as one of its most vocal advocates.

EMBEDDING GENDER DIVERSITY

“Helena was using her network of contacts to try to have an impact on the commercial side without having to use quotas or change government policy,” Morgan says, pointing out that after six years of work the UK has gone from 12% of boards with 30% women to 26%. The group’s efforts have expanded to the U.S., where boards of the S&P 100 is now 23.3% women, and such diverse places as Italy, Hong Kong, and Australia — 10 chapters in all.

Morgan’s optimism about the incremental shift toward gender equality remains cautious. A major concern: the 30% figure, which Morgan feels can be a distraction — or worse, a diversion. “There’s a lot of research that talks about 30% being an effective percentage because if you have one woman it’s a token, and if you have two you have a couple of women, and once you have three you start talking about business. And I realized that people were shooting for the minimum, which was 30%, and feeling quite proud about that. But in a lot of the master’s programs, where the average age of students is 23, we have 50% women in the program. So there’s no reason why we shouldn’t have 50% of representation for that program be women.

“And I do a lot of work to make sure that our board has gender diversity, gender parity, and I do a lot with our student board, so we have very active, wonderful student leaders, and in some sense I put in a quota and I said I want these boards to be 50% women, and that’s the first time I’d done that rather than say, ‘Oh we’re aiming for gender parity or we want a minimum of 30%.’ And I’m in a position of seniority and influence where I can make those decisions.”

NOT WANTING TO BE A ‘BEACON OF GENDER’

But Morgan is sensitive to the need to make change institutional and not the result of one personality. So, because she didn’t want to be a “beacon of gender,” this year she handed over the chair of a committee on gender to a male colleague.

“I found last year that there was so much work to be done on gender that that was becoming part of my business,” she says. “I run the commercial part of the school, I’m responsible for P&L and for the admissions piece, and gender should be a part of what I do — but that’s not my job, that’s not my expertise, that’s one area of things that I do. But my expertise is in running business schools.

“And that’s when I decided to step down from this one committee. I’ll still of course in support of gender but I need more people getting involved in it and I need more people knowing that this isn’t Diane’s personal hobbyhorse. If I leave at any point, I want this to be institutionalized. So that’s the biggest contribution I can make — if I can make sure some of these decisions and awareness are embedded.”

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