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Improving the diversity and inclusion of reading lists

An initiative to promote more equality, diversity and inclusion in the business curriculum by increasing the proportion of key literature sources and research articles by women and by BME authors has been completed by the Work and Equalities Institute.

Financed by the AMBS Social Responsibility (SR) Fund, the study has also contributed to the ‘decolonizing’ agenda by including works in the curriculum from authors from the global south.

The project was headed up by Dr Isabel Tavora, Senior Lecturer in Human Resource Management, and Sheena Johnson, Professor of Work Psychology and Wellbeing. The study specifically applied to two courses, a third-year Equality and Fairness at Work course and a postgraduate Employment Practice and Equality course.

Diverse perspectives

Dr Tavora says the impetus for the study came from her own personal sense that students from diverse backgrounds and different genders don’t always feel that they can associate with authors on established reading lists.

“Ultimately we want to create a business school where we fully embrace diverse perspectives and where everyone feels they belong. What we found was that although women were well represented in our reading lists for these two courses about equality, there was a poor representation of authors from ethnic minority backgrounds and the global south, except on the actual topic of race. 

“Almost every author on our reading lists was from the global north, but at the end of the day who is to really decide who are the best authors from across the world for each course? My personal feeling is that we are all missing out by not reaching out and incorporating wider views, studies and methods from different countries that contribute to different areas of business research. There are great authors all over the world.”


In terms of the two courses in question, the target is now to ensure 30% of authors are from diverse ethnic backgrounds and that half of the list is made up of female authors. At least one source for each topic will also come from the global south.

Adds Dr Tavora: “We have actually used this whole exercise as an opportunity to refresh our reading lists and add different voices on these courses. We have now improved our reading lists to make sure authors from an ethnic minority background, women and authors from the global south are better represented.”

She says at present there are no specific plans to repeat the exercise across other AMBS courses, but says she hopes that the initiative will spark interest among other academics to carry out similar exercises for their courses.


The funding specifically paid for the work of a PhD student who identified the gender breakdown of authors in the reading lists for each topic and identified the proportion of authors from ethnic minorities and works from the global south for each topic's reading list.

The researcher also identified relevant female authors to be added to each topic reading list where these are under-represented, and identified works from ethnic minority academics and from the global south to be added to each list.

Professor Hongwei He, Director for Social Responsibility at AMBS, said: “Embedding social responsibility and Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in our curriculum is one of our key priorities. Isabel and Sheena have done excellent work in this original and significant initiative and we are proud to support it from the AMBS SR fund. We look forward to supporting more works like this with this year's SR fund."