Montpellier Business School has been granted the diversity designation, which the French government (AFNOR) awards to institutions that fight against discrimination, and educate all students regardless of their origins or social situations. I recently had the chance to speak with Caroline Cazi, Director of Human Resources, Diversity and Sustainability at Montpellier Business School about their approach.
Describe the school’s approach to diversity.
Montpellier Business School considers diversity under the scope of French legislation against discrimination. This includes gender, age, disability, origins, marital status, sexual orientation, customs, genetic characteristics, membership (true or supposed) to an ethnic group a nation, race, physical appearance, health, state of pregnancy, patronymic, political beliefs, religious beliefs, and labor-union activities.Our specific focus is around social and economic status, disabilities, and gender.
Today, firms and organisations need to recruit different skill sets and different profiles. Adding diversity leads to creativity, innovation, and increased performance. We encounter talented and motivated young adults that cannot afford the MBA, or disabled students who do not apply because they or their families don’t think they will be able to manage. It is important that we provide not just a space, but also support, for a range of different kinds of students to join the programme.
What are some of the programmes you have put in place for students?
We have a number of programmes aimed at high school students aged 13 to 17, introducing them to the business school and the opportunities we at Montpellier Business School can provide. For accepted students we provide financial aid (scholarships, apprenticeships, jobs in the administrative services, loans of honor, tutoring by partners’ managers), social aid programmes (provided by a psychologist, a social worker, a staff trained to help the handicap students), as well as academic support (remedial courses, e-learning assistance). There is also the possibility for students to follow the programme as an apprentice (3 weeks in company/1 week in the course) with the tuition paid for by the company and a salary given to the student. Last year we had 630 students in this programme up from 129 in 2007/2008. We have also set up a network of counselors to help students adapt their curriculum to their needs whether they be disabled students or young parents.
How is diversity approached on campus?
Diversity comes into every process in Montpellier Business School: human resources processes, research, teaching, relations with providers and firms, etc.In research, we have for example a team working on the link between diversity policies and global performance. A significant part of Montpellier Business School’s contribution to research in management is based on questions around diversity and global responsibility.
The curriculum includes content on not only the legislation against discrimination, but also the importance of recruiting and managing diversity in every organisation, and why it is important.
Our human resources processes have been audited by the French state through the AFNOR process (the French organisation for ISO). Recruitment, promotions, access to training, wages, and salaries are managed through clear and objective processes that do not allow discrimination.
What advice would you have for other schools thinking of putting something similar into place?
First, to ensure they have a clear diversity policy that is communicated to all their stakeholders, and second, that professors and administrative staff are able to communicate to beneficiaries. It is also important to have financial support to help students and to have enough staff to be able to provide support. A huge challenge for us has been to raise money to allow us to provide the services to increase diversity on campus. For this reason we created a Foundation.
The increasing involvement of our staff and our students through different actions linked with diversity and social equity is one of our successes. We have also been recognised by international and national accrediting bodies for our academic quality, and our commitment.
Our next step is to continue to improve our work in this area. In May 2013 we combined HR, Diversity, and CSR into one department because of the importance that we place on all three topics in the business school. We also started a Foundation on campus that grants scholarships each year. Our next steps are to find new funds, to work with more high schools in our region, and to help support more students. We also plan to improve our communications and opportunities for disabled students, includingimproving distance learning solutions.