How are fellowships changing the business world?

diversity, equity and inclusion in business education

In a world that’s still battling against inequality, sometimes due to sexism or the burden of the effects of climate change falling destructively on developing nations, business schools are pushing the envelope in an attempt to make opportunities and spaces more equitable. PR experts Stephanie Mullins and Thomas Willis from BlueSky Education take a closer look at one-way inequality is being addressed: through fellowships. 

The majority of today’s British and American CEOs believe that corporate social responsibility (CSR) is core to their business strategy, but CEOs are also overwhelmingly men. There might be more female CEOs than ever before, but 92 per cent of CEOs are men, and then only 23 per cent of UK Chief Financial Officer positions are currently held by women.

One way in which inequality is being addressed is in the form of scholarships and fellowships at business schools and in the wider world aimed at building present and future diversity, be it the Forté Fellowships putting more women in business or the beVisioneers Mercedes-Benz Fellowship building a diverse and worldwide network of environmentalists.

Responsible leaders

EMST Berlin, in Germany, has implemented a landmark “Responsible leader fellowship”.

The fellows are MBA or Master graduates from ESMT who look to be well on their way to changing the world for the better after their business education. Fellows take on responsibility at an institution that is positioned at the forefront of social challenges in developing countries and use their freshly acquired business school knowledge to help achieve its world-bettering goals. The aim is to ignite opportunity and add value, and the fellows get to further develop responsible leadership.

Fellows have so far brought solar energy to rural areas in India, worked to link European and African entrepreneurs, taught business and entrepreneurship courses in South Africa, and supported entrepreneurs with strategy and marketing in Kenya.

The fellowship transforms aspiring leaders into responsible champions. It aims at producing successful, just, and responsible leaders.

ESMT alumnus Theresa Rodriguez Theresa, for example, “wanted to work in female empowerment” and “in urban development.” She wanted to find “something focused on the urban poor, affordable housing.”

Theresa worked with the city of Cape Town, South Africa, to help totally transform an urban dumping site into a garden for the betterment of the local community, a place where they could come together and enjoy the natural environment and its proven health benefits.

Putting women in the boardroom

Forté Fellowships are helping address inequality and put women at the business table. They are extremely prestigious and competitive awards that are that are well-recognized within the business school community and beyond.

To date, the partner business schools of the Forté Fellowships (including many of the best business schools in the world, including Stanford GSB, Alliance Manchester Business School, Columbia Business School, Imperial College Business School, Harvard Business School, and the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School have awarded $400 million to more than 17,000 Forté Fellows.

Forté Fellows are granted to those who exhibit exemplary leadership, represent diverse backgrounds, and demonstrate a commitment to advancing women in business.

Forté also functions as a networking space for its worldwide selection of fellows, helping its fellows well into the future. The foundation also holds conferences on women’s leadership and other topics.

The project launches women into fulfilling, significant careers through access to elite business education and further compounding opportunities. It builds a self-supporting community of driven, empowered, and successful women. Forté fellowships build exemplary leaders who aim to change the face of business.

Encouraging ecopreneurs

The beVisioneers Mercedes-Benz Fellowship provides young eco-innovators from around the world, aged 16 to 28, with the training, mentoring, expert support, and resources to develop their practical, planet-positive projects. The fellowship is open to young people regardless of their entrepreneurial track record or financial status: it invests in potential.

Designed and implemented by The DO School Fellowships, beVisioneers selects fellows based on their leadership potential and the viability of their project ideas. The DO School has created some of today’s most ambitious fellowship programmes for young impact entrepreneurs in partnership with UN agencies, companies, and foundations and has over 50,000 alumni in over 100 countries.

The core of the beVisioneers fellowship is a 12-month hybrid learning program that focuses on the implementation of each fellow’s project. Now in its pilot year, beVisioneers aims to train 1000 Fellows annually by 2025. Funded by a donation from Mercedes-Benz, beVisioneers provides the programme free of charge to all Fellows and provides financial support for those who could not otherwise participate.

beVisioneers focuses on specific sustainability zones, such as food waste or clean water. The fellowship matches each fellow’s idea to what it needs to succeed. It is a tailored approach to solving the planet’s problems.

Empowering innovators

One fellow, Maya Zaken, an ecopreneur from South Africa, was a city dweller from Johannesburg trained in economics when she decided that she wanted to effect change in agriculture. She had always loved nature but had only ever grown some carrots in her back garden. Two years, a beekeeping and a permaculture course later, she came across the black soldier fly.

Maya is now using that fly to create an organic, nutrient-dense, protein-rich animal food that is perfect for many uses and diverts tonnes of waste from landfills. Maya’s ultimate goal is to close multiple community food loops by creating an easy-to-make, low-tech model to replicate the product, ultimately contributing to a circular food system. Their current fly farm is a self-built greenhouse: a prototype for the perfect sustainable circular economy.

The programme and its learning labs focus on personal sustainability, building individual resilience, environmental sustainability, developing knowledge of planet-positive concepts and practices, and venture sustainability to train resilient entrepreneurial mindsets and develop the skills to turn ideas into action.

At local labs, regional summits and global summits, fellows get a chance to meet their peers face-to-face, network and learn from environmental experts, business leaders, investors, academics, and government officials, and participate in pitch competitions and opportunities to win funding for their project.

Upon completing the 12-month intensive programme, each beVisioneer is welcomed into the beVisioneers Ambassador Programme, with special opportunities to continue to encourage collaboration and problem-solving and grow leadership opportunities, network, and potential impact.

By fostering local, regional, and global exchange among a growing community of Fellows, mentors and experts, beVisioneers aims to amplify the impact of the fellows’ projects today and help build the environmental leaders of tomorrow.

“We are thrilled to work directly with young people who are passionate about innovating pro-planet solutions to issues they observe in their communities and around the world,” says Mariah Levin, Executive Director of beVisioneers. “Our aim is to build the world’s largest community of eco-innovators, anchored in youth action.”

It seems like fellowships are the ones to watch!

For additional insights, trends and perspectives on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, visit the conversation here.

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