Category Archives: Business Economics and Informatics

Embracing Equity: the School of Business, Economics and Informatics celebrates International Women’s Day with a roundtable discussion

Dr Pamela Yeow, Assistant Dean in the School of Business, Economics and Informatics shares her thoughts on the roundtable webinar on this year’s International Women’s Day theme, Embracing Equity.

We were joined by Nicola Bentham, Dr Uracha Chatrakul Na Ayudhya, Dr Libby Drury, Dr Wendy Hein, Dr Vanessa Iwowo, Prof Helen Lawton-Smith, Dr Tinghua Yu, and Dr Pamela Yeow, who chaired the panel discussion. We were so pleased that such an excellent collective of women’s voices came forward to share their research and engagement with the broad and inclusive themes of gender equality and sustainable development.

Equality refers to equal opportunity and suggests that the same levels of support are required for all people, regardless of difference or opportunity. On the other hand, equity goes a step further and reminds us that we are individuals and need varying levels of support to achieve goals.

It is notable that the focus of sustainable development is far broader than just the environment. The UN Sustainable Development Goals established in 2015, recognize that to protect the planet, strategies to transform our world, including ending poverty, must work together with strategies that build economic growth and address a range of societal needs including education, health, and social protection.  At the core of it, sustainable development is very much about ensuring a strong, healthy and just society. Therefore, an investment in gender equity is also an investment in Earth’s future. We cannot save the planet without women.

Our panelists talked about their research, work and impact and how it was important to understand multiple perspectives about the issues around embracing equity. Importantly, there is an urgent need to acknowledge multiple identities that individuals carry around and about them, and the intersectionalities between gender, age, race, and abilities. Libby summarised it well when she says that international women’s day provides us with the opportunity to consider all types of women and how their experiences might differ for different reasons. There should not just be the focus on white, middle class, middle aged, heterosexual western women who are mothers, but also those of different ethnicities, classes, age, sexuality, parental status and those in different contexts such as cultures, work sectors and work roles. In addition to inequality between men and women, there are also many inequalities within women.

Our audience also had many questions and comments, including how we can bring the topic of gender equality and equity to audiences who are content with the status quo. Helen suggested that researchers and practitioners continue to engage in ‘engaged scholarship,’ where it involves constant and sustained interaction between researchers and practitioners in order to share best practices and ideas (Ram et al, 2012).

Furthermore, Uracha was clear that this problem requires all stakeholders at the table, not just women. As these issues are often complex, Wendy encourages all stakeholders to unpack these interactions more so as to be able to develop holistic solutions, and Tinghua felt strongly (as did several audience members) that we need men to also join in the conversations to enact change in this arena. Vanessa advocated the importance of such dedicated days, such as IWD as they open up the spaces for such conversations. However, we need to be mindful that these days do not disappear into the ether and instead, they need to find their way into our meeting agendas, our action points and into our day-to-day discursive spaces and thus be intentional. Nicola summarized it succinctly by saying we need a collective effort with all stakeholders.

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An Hour with Professor Morten Huse Session 3: Scholarly Positioning within the International Community

The third seminar in our series with Professor Morten Huse was an opportunity to reconnect with colleagues in person and reflect on personal ambitions in academia.

On Tuesday 3 May, we were delighted to welcome Professor Morten Huse to Birkbeck campus for the third seminar based on his award-winning book ‘Resolving the crisis in research by changing the game.’ The series reflects Morten’s introspective journey to articulate what he has learned from his extensive experience working with a range of international universities.

Chaired by Dr Muthu De Silva, session three focused on how to scholarly position within the international community, referencing chapters three, four and six from the book.

Role models and mentors

Morten began the discussion by encouraging attendees to share their role models and mentors and to interrogate the difference between the two. Naming a role model can help scholars to identify their personal ambitions and the route they would like to take in their academic career. Mentors form part of an individual’s ‘invisible College’, helping scholars to build connections in their area of interest and expertise. Morten also stressed the importance of reliability when building an international career.

With an understanding of what we want to achieve, it becomes easier to identify which communities to join and which conferences to attend. Morten acknowledged the plethora of different communities and conferences available to scholars today:

  • Global, regional or local
  • Generalist or specialist
  • Formal or social
  • Philanthropic, idealistic, or economic
  • Community or tourism focused

Morten drew comparisons between large academic communities and smaller, more agile groups. He described the Academy of Management as a ‘big ship’ which is less able to manoevre, contrasted with ‘tug boats’ which allow for engaged scholarship, such as the European Academy of Management. In a similar way, he encouraged attendees not to overlook the benefits of working with smaller institutions, as there can be more opportunities to take the initiative and find freedom in research.

The case for programmatic research

Morten encouraged attendees to adopt an outlook of programmatic research. Programmatic research refers to a scholar’s body of work and the links between outputs, rather than focusing on individual papers. Morten stressed that impact is not just about publishing papers, but about research that is genuinely ground-breaking and challenging.

One way to adopt this approach is for scholars to try and summarise their work to date and identify some key learning points, including work conducted with others. Morten encouraged attendees to be open with their research and to work collaboratively: “We shouldn’t be afraid of standing up. If you are going to be noticed and see an impact, dare to go beyond papers and explore books, chapters, gaining visibility in media and through seminars.”

Putting Morten’s advice into practice, the seminar was followed by an opportunity to network with colleagues from across the School of Business, Economics and Informatics and with current and prospective PhD students.

Session 4 in the seminar series will focus on the scholarly ecosystem and publish or perish (‘POP’) culture, exploring initiatives to develop true scholarship. Sign up to our mailing list to be kept up to date with details of this and future Department of Management events.

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Graduating as a couple and changing their lives for the better together

Henry and Raisa Capetian have been together for 7 years and both graduated on the same day this month. Henry graduated from BSc Economics, Raisa from BSc Economics and Business. This is their story. 

Henry and Raisa Capetian

Both in their early thirties, Henry and Raisa chose to pursue degrees later in life for different reasons. For Henry, this was his first foray into higher education, after years of working in retail and not feeling challenged. “It was a job to pay the bills and live day-to-day”, Henry explained. “Brexit happened and it sparked my interest in finance. I started looking into it, reading the Financial Times, doing a bit of market analysis and managing small investments.” Having no A-Level qualifications, Henry started by enrolling on a Foundation degree in Economics, and then doing a BSc Economics degree at Birkbeck. 

For Raisa, studying at Birkbeck was her third time pursuing an Economics degree. Other opportunities had arisen for Raisa which led to her dropping out of two other universities. She began a career as an influencer, doing YouTube make up, lifestyle and wellness tutorials and blogging, amassing a number of followers. Microsoft headhunted her for a Marketing Manager role, which Raisa decided to pursue. A few years on, Raisa decided to pick up where she left off and chose to transfer her credits from other universities to Birkbeck, meaning she only studied at Birkbeck for one year. 

They describe their time at Birkbeck as life changing. Henry explains, “It’s been interesting because it hasn’t been the journey I expected. I thought I’d hold the same part-time job over the three years, but I’ve had three promotions and four different jobs in that time. Studying at Birkbeck has changed the way I think and approach things and it’s allowed me to grow in ways I wouldn’t otherwise have been able to. I’m now working as an account management executive at a tech company.” Raisa adds, “Henry is a totally different person. You wouldn’t recognise him from when he started his degree.”  

Making friends at Birkbeck was easy for Henry and Raisa, with Henry being part of the Economics and Finance Society. He went to their socials, bringing Raisa along. “Everyone at Birkbeck had different journeys and we felt like we belonged to a community. The society leader introduced me to a network of city banking professionals and it was great to enter that world prior to graduating”, Henry says. “The teaching at Birkbeck was great and we liked the fact that everything was so easy – you get all the course notes well in advance”, Raisa adds. 

On their Graduation day, Henry and Raisa felt disbelief, pride and joy. “I’m the first person in my family to graduate”, says Raisa, “so it was an emotional day for me. My grandparents couldn’t read and write and they always used to say ‘we work with our hands but you work with your brain – keep being creative and never stop studying’ – I was thinking about them the most on that day and how proud they’d be.” 

Both Henry and Raisa are looking ahead to the future and considering Master’s degrees at Birkbeck. Raisa is looking to pursue a Master’s in January in Marketing, “I’m really proud to be part of Birkbeck, an institution where I can hand on heart say it aligns with my values and morals.” 

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Henry and Raisa Capetian

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Uncertainty Deconstructed: We Should Have Seen It Coming

We welcomed Dr Bruce Garvey and Dowshan Humzah to a conversation about their latest book co-written with Storm Le Roux, which challenges the concept of uncertainty.

The authors sitting in armchairs discussing their book.

On Wednesday 19 October 2022, Birkbeck’s Centre for Professional Development was delighted to welcome authors Dr Bruce Garvey and Dowshan Humzah to celebrate the launch of their book Uncertainty Deconstructed: A Guidebook for Decision Support Practitioners, co-written with Storm Le Roux.

In a week that saw the resignation of Home Secretary Suella Braverman, shortly followed by Prime Minister Liz Truss herself, it seemed fitting to consider the role of uncertainty in the political and private arena.

Is uncertainty really the villain we make it out to be, or could we better lay the blame for inaction or poor decision-making at the door of groupthink, inflexible strategy and an unwillingness to apply creative thinking to complex problems?

Based on the premise that uncertainty is not really uncertainty at all, but just demonstrates a lack of vision and willingness to think about the unthinkable, the book formed an appropriate foundation for a discussion that ranged from the current volatile political climate to managerial decision-making and harnessing our inner creativity.

Chair Dr Pamela Yeow began the discussion by inviting the authors to deconstruct the concept of uncertainty. Bruce highlighted that, prior to the financial crash, it was typical to speak of “risk” rather than “uncertainty”. Whereas risk is quantifiable, he argued that “people use the term uncertainty to talk about mess-ups that have happened on their watch.”

Attendees were invited to take part in two quick polls to facilitate the discussion. 55% agreed with the statement: ‘Uncertainty is not really uncertainty at all but just demonstrates a lack of foresight, imagination, and vision.’

Graph showing the results of the poll asking if attendees agree with the statement "Uncertainty is not really uncertainty at all but just demonstrates a lack of foresight, imagination and vision"

The second poll, ‘What one factor can improve decision-making given uncertainty?’ had four options. The result overwhelmingly showed ‘diversity and difference’ taking the lead with nearly 70% selecting ‘Having more different, diverse and challenging people and viewpoints’. It is interesting to note, that the option of ‘Bringing in established management consultancies’ scored 0%.

Graph showing the results of the poll "what one factor can improve decision-making given uncertainty?"

If we are to meet the challenges that an ever-changing world is throwing at us, then the task of accepting that uncertainty is about exploring the possible, rather than the impossible must be taken on board by all. It is our reliance on the past and accepted models and lack of accepting maverick, even challenging perspectives, which limits us and closes opportunity space. We need more creativity, innovation and embracing difference.

While uncertainty is undoubtedly out there, we are not without the tools to understand it. The authors drew parallels between decision-making and the design process: while it may initially seem nebulous, applying a structured approach to the problem reveals greater clarity.

Dowshan called for a balance between linear, traditional approaches to problem-solving and creative, free thinking which enables us to find new solutions. He reflected on the damaging impact of silo mentalities on organisations looking to address wider issues. Discussion with the audience explored how such ideas could be applied to a range of real-life case studies, from our academic context at Birkbeck to the health service and large consultancy firms.

Asked for their key takeaways from the book, Bruce encouraged attendees to “continuously update contingency plans” and to approach management as a continuous process rather than discrete functions. Dowshan called for organisations to go beyond paying lip-service to introducing diverse perspectives: “recruit to challenge, select to challenge – do what you say”.

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