Indiana’s Kinsey-Kelley Center Hopes To Move The Needle On Workplace Inequity

The Kinsey Institute at Indiana University celebrates its 75th anniversary this year. It is among the world’s leading research institutes on issues of gender, reproduction, and sexuality. Courtesy photo


When you talk about training, are you talking about the workplaces themselves?

Sellers: We do hope so. We hope, for sure, to offer training to businesses in in all of these areas concerning sexual harassment, discrimination, gender identity at work.

You know, I’m always telling my students that the law can only do so much. The law is really important, it changes people’s lives. But what really matters is just what people in power do with that power. For example, we have a required business ethics class for undergraduates in Kelley, and it now incorporates as a required part of the curriculum issues of diversity. That’s a place where we are demonstrating our belief in and commitment to making sure that the next generation of business managers is smart about this issue.

Let’s talk a little bit about the timing in context of the #MeToo movement and the push for gender parity in business schools. What is the significance of this partnership coming together at this point in time?

Sellers: You know, it’s only been two years since the U.S. Supreme Court held that gender identity and sexual orientation are covered under the country’s main anti discrimination law. And it’s only been within the last few years that sexual harassment, in particular with the Harvey Weinstein news jumped to the forefront. It’s been an issue,of course, for decades. But I do think it’s true that, at this point, businesses just cannot deny the need to be really sophisticated, thoughtful, and sensitive about gender issues in the workplace in particular.

Garcia: I think we’ve hit a boiling point for all of these issues. I think the Supreme Court ruling gave people so#MeTools to say, “Okay, we have the right to advocate for this.” The #MeToo movement and Weinstein, I think, radically changed the ways that we think about gender.

As someone who’s in gender studies, businesses are still sort of on the woman issue, which emerged like 25 years ago in feminist studies. I mean, we’ve hit this point where it’s impossible to not recognize the inequities–from the boardroom to salaries to parental leaves to gender identities being recognized. The failure to do that is bad for business. I think it’s also bad for humanity, and in some sense, it’s an opportunity to address that too.

How is this center different from other initiatives being undertaken at different business schools?

Sellers: Well, no other school has the expertise of Kinsey. No other school has this sort of expertise available. I know there are business schools with diversity initiatives, and I applaud them all, and I say the more the merrier when it comes to trying to make business a more equitable place. But it is true that Kinsey is unique in its history and its remarkable expertise in that area.

Garcia: I agree, and I think that having a place where we can pull together these different expertise and disciplinary backgrounds is essential. I often joke that if I give a lecture on sexual misconduct, I get all sorts of legal questions, and I don’t I just don’t have the tools to answer them. But I have Sellers and our colleagues in business ethics, and vice versa.

I think what’s really unique is we have the right combination of people and motivation to do this. I will say that there are quite a few diversity initiatives at business schools and there are a few centers for women and business or gender and business. Berkeley is one that’s somewhat similar, but nothing really is tackling the problem in this way. I say not necessarily to elevate ourselves up, but just to say there is a vacuum and we are happy to address that gap.

What do you think will be the impact on undergraduate and MBA students in engaging in diversity, ethics, and similar classes at Kelley?

Sellers: We’ve renamed the undergraduate business ethics class to “Ethics and Equity in Diverse Organizations,” to reflect our commitment to incorporating diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging issues into a business ethics class.

There’s really no way, I think, to be an organization of complete integrity without addressing issues of equity. We just think it’s really important to teach our undergraduate students that before they ever get out into management positions, as part of their training of what it means to be a good manager.

As for our MBA students, we have a sexual harassment class that we have been co-teaching with Kelly and Kinsey faculty for three years now. We are looking for ways to expand that.

Garcia: From the intervention side, one of the things we know is that single touch points often don’t do that well at changing behavior. That’s partly why those one-hour trainings don’t really work. What our colleagues actually did was expand that undergraduate class from two credits into three, and every single business student has to take it in their junior year.

We now want to try and hit some other points. So the next step is finding a way to reach freshmen business students, and eventually the whole university. We’re going to have multiple touch points because this is an issue that can’t be delivered in a one-hour webinar. We have to really get people to think about these issues in their lives and in their professional practice.

What’s the first big goal or initiative that you’d like to see come out of the center?

Sellers: I’m looking for an accomplishment in each of the three buckets: research, education, and outreach. I’m looking for us to be able to say that we offered something, changed something of real value in all of those buckets. I think that means programming soon, and I am working on that as we speak.

Garcia: Yes, I think we want to do more on all of them.

From my side, I’m also excited about teaming up on the case statements in the research to be able to share with our peers that this is data driven. There’s a data driven reason to do this, and these are the data driven outcomes we’re seeing. I get excited about that evidence.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Garcia: Sometimes I catch myself thinking about this initiative and wondering if it’s too lofty. But it really is the kind of project and the kind of collaboration that can make the world a better place. Those are nice things to say at universities, but this is a case in which it really can, and I think that it will.



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