This B-School Is Promoting LGBTQ+ Rights Across Thailand 

Sasin School of Management in Bangkok, Thailand became the first AACSB accredited business school in the country more than a decade ago.

Some 1,200 employees of a Thai company were asked what they thought about diversity. Dr. Drew Mallory, who led the survey, says more than 30% said that within their large organization it meant trees. Literally: trees.

There’s a good explanation for why, says Mallory, a faculty member at Chulalongkorn University’s Sasin School of Management in Thailand and the B-school’s “inclusion ambassador”: The term “diversity” simply lacks the same connotation it has in the West because it’s a Western invention.

“People are more and more aware that diversity is used to mean differences of all kinds, but the concept in Thailand is still really attached to the concept of ecological diversity,” Mallory tells P&Qs in an interview.


Sasin’s Drew Mallory: “We held focus groups, and started building momentum, did surveys and also held large community groups. Eventually, we drafted a blueprint that’s been through an appointed committee and through a very slow, painstaking process”

Mallory has undertaken research in diversity and inclusion areas for years now, first in the U.S., then in Belgium, and now Thailand. The American is overseeing and implementing the Bangkok-based business school’s Inclusion, Diversity and Equity (DEI) policies and programs.

Sure, the idea and practices of diversity exist all-around the Southeast Asian country, which on a whole Mallory describes as a supportive/tolerant society of LGBTQ+ groups. Thailand in general is highly-regarded as a LGBTQ+ paradise, as a global haven for being tolerant, but a comprehensive report from the United Nations Development Programme saw that the lived experience looks differently. Many other cases find the LGBTQ+ community is regularly denied access to health care, education and — for purposes of some of Mallory’s research — employment. For this reason, the Sasin School of Management emphasizes the same messaging as Western DEI initiatives, but the positioning is different.

For example, Mallory describes the school’s launch video for its TransTalent Project: “Our video and every event emphasis Thai-ness. Thai people. Thai leadership. Thai concepts. We show Thai faces.”


Sasin’s initiatives are complementary to Mallory’s own research. Some of it involves one-on-one interviews with transgender people who want to be in business but in most cases, they face rejection. Mallory says he finds that they are skipped over after interviewing for a job sometimes immediately for the way they present. (“They don’t appear to be cisgender,” he says.) And in other cases, if the presentation “passes”, trans men and women will still be turned away for fear of what it could mean for companies’ brand or image. Mallory says it boils down to an economic decision when they might be told: If we bring you in, our customers might not like it.

“One of my interviewees was told ‘We’ve just never hired a trans person before,’” he says. Mallory notes that in many instances systemic exclusion from the workplace affects so many trans women. While people become familiar with transgender people through the entertainment industry, and it is an acceptable way of making money, it’s not always entered to by choice, Mallory says.

Exclusion from the workplace happens for various reasons, and one experience can’t be contributed to all of Thailand. While the UNDP’s report found that in a 2018 survey, 69% of 2,210 respondents had generally positive attitudes toward LGBTQ+ people, 44% believe that they should not be permitted to set up organizations to promote gender issues. The report found that for trans women, 38% reported being verbally attacked, sexually harassed or subjected to physical violence. And in the workplace 10% of trans women reported experiencing discrimination at their current or most recent job, while 41% reported facing discrimination as students.

He says much of what the government does is dependent on business interests, which is why building a network of values and understanding around these issues are so important for business schools.

“There’s not really anyone in the region doing this. If you were to start digging into the best programs around the world, they’re not really transparent in what they are focusing on,” he says.


Sasin’s TransTalents projects focus not trauma or discrimination, but instead on telling stories of how people succeeded. The impact-driven program, launched about a year ago, looks at trans leaders and the contributions they’ve made to society. Mallory notes “this is a very Thai issue” because many trans people are public, they run large media or entertainment businesses, but are not often allowed into the formal business space. He says Sasin’s goals are to implicitly ask and answer questions like “what happens to the culture within an organization that will bring someone who is transgender into the organization?”

“We stand as the nexus between business and society. Not only that, however, we also stand to create some of the upcoming generations of business leaders,” he says.

Additionally, in the area of DEI, Sasin opened a research center last January called the Neurodiversity at Work Research Centre. The center studies neurodiverse people in the workplace, that could include individuals with autism spectrum disorder, down syndrome, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and more. Mallory says its purpose is to empower employers to hire inclusively in ways that benefit neurodivergent people. He adds there’s also benefits for companies, which largely overlook a whole community of untapped leaders and workers.


The school integrates Buddhism, international travel and sustainability into its business curriculum, hoping to teach students to become responsible and culturally nimble.

It was the first internationally accredited business school in Thailand, and one of two business schools at Chulalongkorn University (a private school within a public university). The school this year received a Level 3, characterized as progressing, from the Positive Impact Rankings 2023 Report that was released at the UN PRME Global Forum on June 14. In the ranking, students from 71 business schools participated in the report, and Sasin was one of two Asian schools qualifying for a Level 3 designation.

Sasin was established in 1982 upon a collaboration between Chulalongkorn, Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management and Wharton. Last year, the school noted, 90% of the school’s full-time MBAs were Thai while pre-pandemic numbers saw a rise in international students enrolling in Sasin’s EMBA.


Some scholars have talked about how Western ideals of DEI when practiced in Thailand are actually quite harmful. They might be successful in say, the United States, but they don’t work in Thailand because they don’t suit the environment.

“I’ve spoken to various management organizations here and they’ve noted that the only reason they are interested in DEI is for the publicity, not the human rights purposes,” Mallory says.

In creating initiatives at Sasin, faculty of the IDEALS department (that stands for Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access to Learning at Sasin) started first engaging with locals as a “grassroot, community-based exploration.” Sasin wanted to, first and foremost, get a sense of local exemplars, but didn’t find a lot in the city.

“We held focus groups, and started building momentum, did surveys and also held large community groups. Eventually, we drafted a blueprint that’s been through an appointed committee and through a very slow, painstaking process,” Mallory says.

When some westerners viewed their initial launch video, they said they didn’t see what was so great about it. Mallory says they went, “Great, but so what?” and he says for very good reason: the trans leaders featured in the 2-min vid exclaim words any leader might. But Thai viewers held a very different reaction.

“When I played the intro to a group of highly-diverse Thai staff … one responded: ‘This is such a big step.’ Because while the video says very little about DEI, the very people who are speaking prove the point,” says Mallory.

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