Diversity & Inclusion at IESE – Cultivating leaders to whom the future can be entrusted

Why we are here today

You don’t have to look hard to find “diversity” being championed as a governing principle in company mission and vision statements. The business case for diversity is not new, although it has become more pressing and pertinent in recent times. For years, we have been taught, and maybe even experienced first-hand in our work spheres, how diversity of thought and experience lead to better problem solving and decision making, greater innovation, more creativity, and a bigger bottom line.

And to back it up, the numbers from global surveys are quite convincing – companies who are the most racially and ethnically diverse are 35% more likely to have better financial returns than industry averages. And companies that are the most gender diverse? They’re 15% more likely to have better financial returns than industry averages.[1] Even diversity in alma mater makes a difference – success rate of business acquisitions and IPOs has been found to be 11.5% lower, on average, for investment partners who share school backgrounds versus those who attended different schools.[2] 

If the business case for diversity is seemingly clear, then why does society struggle with diversity initiatives? Why are some companies not as diverse as they can or should be? There are a few answers to that, ranging from cynical belief systems, to perhaps more widespread occurrences such as languishing hiring practices, where companies scout talent in narrow avenues they’ve grown all too familiar with. Other answers are rooted in culture – companies not knowing how to make the diverse sets of people they do hire belong or feel included, and therefore failing to retain them. If we are to champion diversity, then it cannot be achieved without inclusion also being front and center and for its own merit. In an inclusive environment everyone has a voice, access to opportunity, and is actively engaged. And to add icing to the proverbial cake? Inclusive workplaces are 8 times…(8 times!) more likely to achieve better business outcomes.[3] 

IESE D&I Committee is turbocharging diversity and inclusion

At IESE, we have over 85 nationalities represented in our MBA student cohorts. That’s an incredible feat. Such diversity has been a key element in enriching the case method experience, inspiring new types of inquiry, new debate and discussions, and new elements of analysis and solutioning, all of which are tools necessary “to develop leaders who […] have a deep, positive and lasting impact on people, companies and society” – IESE’s mission.

And still, we acknowledge that there is more we can do as an institution to bring in more students with diverse cultures, races and ethnicities, genders, beliefs, abilities and identities. There is more we can do to prepare all MBA students to tackle the challenges of and understand the forces shaping business today and tomorrow. These are challenges which require leaders to navigate difference and develop empathy in order to succeed. These are challenges that are best met head on with innovative business strategies, strategies that diverse organizations are, on average, better equipped to formulate and handle.

The IESE Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) Committee, now in its 2nd year, was formed out of this acknowledgement. That there is more we can do. Made up of students, administrative staff, and faculty, the D&I Committee works to create an environment at IESE that empowers each student to fully participate in the exchange of ideas that is core to the IESE experience and equips students with the tools to thrive out in the world at large. Because we believe that every voice should be heard, not just the loudest, and that every student belongs here at IESE. We believe that all students, regardless of personal condition or circumstance, can succeed here and out in the world. And we’re on a mission to make that a reality through several campus-wide initiatives that span Academics, Student Resources, Programming, Community Engagement and more.

What are some specific ways we go about achieving our D&I Committee mission?

  • By capturing student sentiment through surveys and analyzing the change over time of sentiments both inside and outside the classroom, we better understand how the institution is placed with regards to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. The student perspective helps define our annual action plan, which outlines specific steps we will take to support diversity, inclusion, and belonging. Some of our focus areas this year, for example, are diversity in faculty and more diversity and inclusion curriculum development in Ethics and Leadership courses.
  • By producing campus-wide programming and/or amplifying student-led initiatives with a diversity, equity, or inclusion lens. Programming can be led by students or D&I focused experts, corporations and alumni across the globe. This helps the committee foster empathy and learning across different programming formats. “Story Slams” is one of the favored student-led events hosted by students on the D&I Committee – students gather to hear their peers share personal life experiences in a safe and intimate environment. Our plan is to work with section reps to eventually evolve Story Slam into a section activity.
  • By promoting student voices and free student expression within the institutional setting unique to IESE. The student representatives in the D&I Committee meet regularly with faculty and staff to challenge, inspire action, generate dialogue, and ensure that student voices are heard on a full range of diversity and inclusion considerations.

“IESE so far has been everything they said it would be: intense, transformative and mostly rewarding. I have had the chance to learn a lot about myself and others, form meaningful connections and grow as a result of my interactions with other members of the IESE family. While IESE has representation from diverse nationalities, I look forward to a time when the MBA cohort and overall experience more closely reflect the world around us. This is what we hope to achieve in the D&I Committee and I’m excited to play a role in that!”

– Hasani Brooks, MBA 2022, D&I Committee Student Rep


Core Programming

The committee hosts events and workshops throughout the year, which culminate in our annual D&I Conference. The D&I Conference gathers pioneering minds working in diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging to discuss evolutions in the space and equip students with actionable strategies they can incorporate in their journey towards creating more inclusive cultures. We welcome faculty, students, prospective students and our company networks to this event to meet expert D&I speakers, alumni and members of our affinity clubs, and to participate in workshops. The 2nd D&I Conference in 2021 themed “Together we are stronger, together we thrive” was held virtually and included speakers such as Mita Mallick, Head of Inclusion, Equity, and Impact at Carta, and McKinsey & Company.

“As a member of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee at IESE, I had the opportunity to organize the 2nd D&I Conference. This was an incredibly rewarding experience as we discussed very relevant topics in the diversity, equity and inclusion space, including how to thrive in a diverse workplace. After I graduate from the MBA, I want to work in an open and inclusive environment, where everyone can thrive irrespective (and because) of their differences. I am very grateful that IESE gives students the space and opportunity to have these important conversations.”

– Alexandra Cortes, MBA 2022, D&I Committee Student Rep

The Path Ahead

Cultural change is not easy. Thus, we move forward with conviction and inspired purpose. We know that should we succeed in our efforts, the IESE we see today versus tomorrow will be decidedly different. We will enhance our community and academic excellence even more. We will live out our vision and values to the fullest of highlighting the rights and dignity of each person and “inspiring leaders for whom everybody matters” and to whom the future can be entrusted.

The IESE Diversity and Inclusion Committee welcomes your questions and comments. Here’s how to reach us and get involved: di@iese.edu

Special gratitude to Abdullah Alterkit (MBA 2019), Kailah Mays (MBA 2020), Jeff Richards (MBA 2020), and Mariana Alonso, Charlie Porter, Dominique Forster de Almeida, and Chris Coraggio (MBA 2021) and IESE admin and faculty for making the D&I Committee possible!

Written by Tanaka Mawindi and Piyush Mediratta (MBA 2022), Co-Leads of the IESE Diversity & Inclusion Committee 2021-2022.






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Camille Chow View more

Associate Director, Admissions (MBA '16)

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