What should Oxford University do? Quote: “Create a revolution”

Oxford University involved in Twitter row with David Lammy

There has been some suggestion that some unconscious bias training, targets and pre-application guidance will address the issue of Oxford University’s poor admission rates for black students. (Oxford publishes statistics on admissions diversity – BITC says need to translate attraction into successful admissions).

I have to say, I disagree that this approach will work.

Institutional bias will not be reduced through these steps. Wholesale culture change is required. This is relevant for Oxford University, other culturally homogeneous universities (I wonder how Durham fares?), arts and media organisations, the boards of City banks etc, and, looking at the board of the BBC, that institution too.

This kind of institutional change does not come easily. It requires huge commitment and massive action.

As Giovanni Bisignani, the IATA DG & CEO, reflected after sacking 80% of his senior leadership and 70% of his staff in 2003/4 in order to instigate cultural change, he had to “create a revolution”, “I had to [figuratively, of course] put a bomb in a church, and that is what I did”.  IATA now leads in its approach to Cultural Intelligence; it’s a lean, efficient organisation, and our skies and airports are the more joined up and effective because of it.

The question to ask is: Does Oxford University [insert name of other institution here] want to change? If so, as I say regularly, in the quote attributed to Einstein, the definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. In my opinion, the ideas suggested by the BITC do not precipitate change. It’s doing the same thing over and over and then having the justification for it continuing the way it is.

As I blogged before, Unconscious Bias Awareness training is a waste of time and money and can be used as an excuse for behaviours and decisions.

This is what needs to happen.

Every single person involved in the management of every single college [head of department at an institution etc.] needs to be culturally assessed for their motivation in wanting to be more culturally diverse and inclusive. By cultural diversity, I refer to all diversity, not just ethnic. Just like they measure IQ, let’s measure their CQ.

CQ is Cultural Intelligence. It’s an academically robust quotient which has been peer-reviewed more than 100 times. It is the capability to relate and work effectively in culturally diverse situations. (Cultural Intelligence Center)

Earley and Ang built on Sternberg and Detterman’s multiple loci framework on intelligence, to argue that intelligence must go beyond mere cognitive abilities. Ang and Van Dyne developed an initial nomological network of predictors and outcomes of four CQ capabilities:

  • CQ Drive (Motivational CQ): the level of a person’s interest, persistence, and confidence to function in culturally diverse settings.
  • CQ Knowledge (Cognitive CQ): the level of a person’s understanding about how cultures are similar and how they are different.
  • CQ Strategy (Meta-cognitive CQ): the degree to which a person plans for, remains aware during, and checks after multicultural interactions.
  • CQ Action (Behavioural CQ): the extent of a person’s flexibility and appropriate use of a broad repertoire of behaviours and skills during multicultural encounters.

If, following their CQ Assessment, their motivation for change is not high enough, they need to be replaced, and those positions should be held by people whose CQ Drive rating is higher.

Then, those people motivated to change, need to work on their CQ Knowledge, CQ Strategy and CQ Action around the areas of diversity that need to be improved in their organisations.

You won’t have to monitor the change then, you’ll see it, but the monitoring is useful to ensure all biases are being mitigated and all areas of diversity are being represented.

Inclusion would be felt and embraced across the organisation, and change, real change, will benefit all of society.