The topics of diversity and inclusion are continuously evolving and are becoming increasingly relevant to universities and organizations. We at the University of St.Gallen are happy to share some of our most recent initiatives undertaken to further progress in this area.

Student Initiatives and Perspectives

By Robin-Resham Singh, Project Leader, Pride Month 2021
Business Administration (Bachelor)
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The University of St.Gallen’s curriculum encourages students to look beyond the business perspective, offering a vast and growing selection of courses on gender studies, social and cultural diversity, and more. Aspects of diversity are also incorporated into mandatory courses such as Leadership & Human Resource Management, and students use gender-sensitive language in their academic writing.

Furthermore, numerous student clubs and initiatives supported by the University are working towards a more diverse and inclusive HSG. The student club UniGay plays a key role for LGBTQ+ students and allies, offering get-togethers, a mentoring program, corporate events and a community of like-minded people. Universa, the women’s business network, hosts events similar to those of UniGay, as well as the HSG Women’s Day. There is also a student initiative in the works that aims to provide a safe space for students of color with monthly roundtables.

Pride Month @HSG, an independent student initiative founded by Andreas Oberholzer in 2020, aims to increase visibility for LGBTQ+ students and raise awareness for current issues and injustices concerning the LGBTQ+ community. The project, funded by the University of St.Gallen and the Canton of St.Gallen, hosts a multitude of events such as panel discussions, a Q&A, and literature and movie nights on a campus decorated with rainbow flags.

As leader of the second installment of the project, I witnessed firsthand the impact our work has had on students. Our LGBTQ+ students are grateful for the project, for they feel heard and seen. The students of the University of St. Gallen have very open-minded world views, so the purpose of Pride Month was not to combat discrimination specifically at our university but rather to highlight important issues and promote allyship, giving everyone a deeper understanding of the topic and creating a sense of community. The project marks a monumental milestone in HSG history and has sparked a variety of projects and discussions at the institutional level. The support from student clubs, the university administration and staff has exceeded expectations.

In the future we shall further expand our notion of «pride» to include everyone who has been marginalized in some way and to make it known that our university allows and encourages students to be themselves, without fear of judgement or discrimination, creating a proud, authentic, and inclusive community. There is certainly room for more activism from both the students and the university, but I believe we are well on our way to a better and brighter future at HSG.

Administrative Initiatives

By Dr Verena Witzig, Expert for Diversity and Inclusion

In recent years, the University of St.Gallen has heightened its commitment to fostering the diversity of its staff and student body. To this end, the institution has instituted both regulative and practical measures. For example, the Equality Commission has participated in the consultation process for reformulating the University of St.Gallen Act, which is the main regulatory document between the canton and the University. The Equality Committee suggested that the University include the fostering of diversity and protection from discrimination in a prominent place within the overhauled University Act. That input was considered by lawmakers, and the law will be altered accordingly. Additionally, the principles of diversity and inclusion are embedded in the university’s vision as well as its short-term strategy. The university has also developed an inclusive language guide to foster discrimination-free communication (in German).

The University of St.Gallen has set the goal to increase the number of female professors to 30% until 2025. To achieve this goal, academic appointment procedures have become more inclusive. To some this presents a dilemma, since the process is meant to be highly selective and competitive.

The key is to avoid implicit bias in both the selection and self-selection processes. The first step is to actively recruit female researchers. It is common that female researchers do not apply to professorial job advertisements as often as men, because they consider themselves unqualified for positions of high status. Identifying qualified female researchers and inviting them to apply ensures a gender-balanced candidate pool.

Next, the appointment committee must ensure that the percentage of female candidates does not decrease throughout the process. One key tactic employed by the University of St.Gallen is to provide training for committee members to help them recognize and counteract implicit gender bias.

The University has developed a virtual appointment process simulation that enables players to recognize gender bias during a committee meeting and provides strategies for intervening. Players are led through short video sequences depicting problematic situations concerning advertisements, candidate selections and evaluation of presentations. After each video, players choose one of three options on how to proceed. Depending on each player’s score, they either successfully appoint a female professor – or do not.

Such training focuses on bias in group situations, which tend to activate and reinforce gender bias. Principles from the online training have also been successfully integrated into workshops and coaching sessions.

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