Dean Bill Boulding was among the business school deans who committed to an initiative at the White House formally adopting concrete practices for Duke University's Fuqua School of Business to ensure the development of future leaders who will support working families. The commitment followed more than a year of work Boulding and others led with the White House Council on Women and Girls and the Council of Economic Advisers after an April 2014 meeting.
"At business schools, we have the opportunity to make tremendous impact in how future leaders think about challenges facing families in the workforce," Boulding said, "I'm extremely pleased to see tangible steps being taken by business schools to make sure this is a priority in our institutions. Ultimately, this commitment could transform how we are thinking about our workforce in the United States.
Boulding and 46 other deans committed to the best practices document which lists steps to encourage business schools to focus efforts in the following areas:
1. Ensuring access to business school and business careers, particularly for women
2. Building a business school experience that prepares future leaders to address issues facing working families
3. Ensuring career services at schools cater to the needs of families who may be looking for flexibility both in jobs out of school and later in their careers
4. Ensuring the school itself serves as a model of how a business should be run
Boulding says Fuqua will take on additional commitments beyond those listed in the document to continually check the culture of the school remains one committed to prizing the power of diversity and encouraging open and honest dialogue about issues facing women in the workplace or working families.
"I'm so proud that our students have also been a driver of these candid conversations," Boulding said, "Talking openly about sometimes uncomfortable topics with people who don't come from your same background or life experience is the only way to make true progress in solving a problem."
As an example, Boulding points to Fuqua's Association of Women in Business. In 2013, the group realized it was only talking to like-minded women about the challenges many members were experiencing in the workplace. As a result, the group started a program for men. Now both men and women gather to have these conversations, which have resulted in a more productive understanding of the issues facing each group.
"What our students started to discover is that some of these issues don't just impact women. There are also workplace concerns facing men. There is more common ground than some might have initially thought," Boulding said.
Boulding shared that perspective at a panel at the White House devoted to how schools could model the types of organizations they hope future leaders will create.
"Policies in organizations like paid family leave and flexible working hours are certainly key to supporting working families," Boulding said, "However, so many of these issues have to do with the culture of a workplace. Policies and benefits do no good if people are afraid to use them because they could hurt their careers. We have got to get past some of the stigma in the business world associated with balancing a job and a family."
As for the larger initiative among business schools, the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) has announced plans to help lead this effort beyond just the business schools who committed to the document. The organization which has a membership of more than 1,450 and accredits more than 700 schools announced the appointment of its first chief diversity and inclusion advocate.
"I've been proud to be part of this effort," Boulding said, "I hope this will be a conversation that continues well past this gathering at the White House."