As one of the academic year’s first events, Mays Business School’s Inclusive Student Leadership (ISL) Workshop underscores the school’s commitment to preparing transformational leaders who can excel with diversity, equity, and inclusion. The one-day workshop, held August 26, 2021, was funded by an endowment created by Accenture to support the annual Inclusive Student Leadership series of workshops, and involved over 50 Aggie leaders representing every Mays student organization. The ISL initiative offers a series of four workshops throughout an academic year hosted by Mays Office of Diversity and Inclusion, the Multicultural Association of Business Students (MABS), and the Business Student Council.
These workshops were planned with the goal of helping Mays student leaders increase their ability to lead their respective student groups while at Mays—and in honing those skills, be prepared to work effectively in a global economy when they step into the work world. “The ISL workshops are designed to help Mays organizations foster diversity. It doesn’t get talked about enough, but it’s now in the headlines so we need to address it and can’t be oblivious,” said Amrita Hooda ’22, the MABS president. “It’s an opportunity to expand your horizons, but it’s up to student leaders to take that opportunity to grow as a person.”
The day’s agenda featured four Former Students – Tarvoris Johnson ’03 ’05, Ricky L. Dillard, Jr. ’19, Jeevika Jarmarwala ’20, and Hannah Murray ’18—who work for Accenture. The company, which has 569,000 employees in 50 countries, has expertise in more than 40 industries across five industry groups: communications, media and technology; health and public service; financial services; products; and resources.
Accenture is known for its commitment to creating and sustaining a culture of equality—including gender, LGBTI, religion, persons with disabilities and cross-cultural diversity. “Mays Business School is grateful for the support Accenture has provided for the ISL initiative. We believe that a culture of diversity, inclusion, and engagement with our corporate partners fosters a vibrant learning organization. Mays student leaders are fortunate to have this opportunity to learn from experienced inclusive leaders,” said Dr. Nancy Hutchins, Mays Director of Diversity and Inclusion.
Encouraging Inclusion, Innovation
During the first session, the Accenture team talked about the importance of building strong and diverse teams, a challenge that has become even more pronounced during the pandemic. Johnson noted that the company has emphasized defining what it means to create a culture of equality, based on its core values of stewardship, best people, one global network, client value creation, and respect for the individual. “Inclusion is an environment where diversity can flourish,” he shared with the student leaders in the room.
Accenture uses diversity and inclusion training as well as specific affinity groups to create bonds between different employees. “We have different engagements and conversations around some of the outright things that happened in this past year,” Johnson said.
The company encourages its employees to explore other cultures through the different employee resource groups (ERG). Murray, who is Caucasian, has taken advantage of this flexibility, through engaging with Accenture’s Asian Pacific ERG. “It was interesting to me to be surrounded by many different cultures that make up the Asian Pacific ERG,” she said. “I also was able to bring these cultural lessons from the ERG to the rest of the organization and to the other groups that I’m part of.”
In building high-functioning and diverse teams, Accenture focuses on six characteristics: visible commitment; curiosity about others; cultural intelligence; humility; awareness of bias; and effective collaboration. Cultivating an atmosphere that includes these traits allows participants to be vulnerable and share areas where they disagree.
Dillard told the Aggies that it’s important to be authentic and show visible commitment to diversity. He gave a personal example of how he wanted to increase his own commitment to diversity at Accenture. To accomplish this, he created relationships with two Historically Black Colleges and Universities and will be serving as Accenture’s lead recruiter to these institutions.
The presenters also noted that leaders need to listen to different viewpoints. “I have an open conversation with my team leader. She has always had an open-door policy and encourages that if you think there’s a better way to improve the process, feel free to speak up,” Jarmarwala said. “Sometimes when I put the idea out there, we realize that I don’t have the bigger picture of what we’re looking at. She tells me, ‘This is why we don’t do this.’ But just having the ability to put the idea out there is great.”
The Former Students also shared the importance of identifying and addressing unconscious bias and micro-behaviors, such as micro-insults, to create a more diverse team. “As you grow and move towards trying to be non-biased, you have to train yourself because facial expressions are part of communication,” Dillard said.
Social Style Self Reflection
The Accenture team also asked students to identify their social styles—analytical, driving, amiable and expressive—based on assertiveness and responsiveness. After asking the student leaders to consider their own styles, the presenters shared the traits of each style, as well as an analysis of the need, strength, and area of improvement for each style.
Additionally, student leaders learned about conflict resolution styles of competing, collaborating, compromising, avoiding, and accommodating. These styles were analyzed based on the importance of achieving a goal as well as the importance of the relationship.
The speakers told the students that being aware of their own social styles and conflict resolution styles as well as that of others will enhance their ability to lead. “You will have different leaders who are spread throughout the organization, and you’ll have to flex what you decide to communicate to them, based on what you’ve learned from your initial questioning and discovery,” Dillard said. “It’s just a matter of first learning these and then taking the moment to say, ‘When I meet new people and have to communicate with them, I need to figure out where I see them because it will help me to have a more streamlined conversation rather than us trying to battle through our social styles.’”
This workshop offered new insights to help Mays student learners support their student organizations and also reinforced Mays commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, which is part of the school’s strategic plan. “Encouraging diversity and enhancing equity in student organizational practices can have a tremendous impact on our college climate. The ISL workshops are intentional efforts to establish an inclusive culture at Mays with our students leading the way.” Hutchins said.