By AIB President Jeremy Clegg

Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) has been practiced by AIB for many years, and it is now high time that we make it explicit, and set out the ways in which AIB already promotes and pursues D&I – and what we and you, our AIB members, can do and are doing to make D&I even more effective across the whole breadth and depth of our organization.

There are many ways to spell out diversity and inclusion, but for me at the center is equality. In the context of an organization such as AIB this means equality of opportunity. So, this requires actively working to overcome inequalities, past, present, and future – for inequalities are always being created.

Our D&I Foundations

Today, we are building on earlier work by past president Lorraine Eden in founding, in 2001, Women in the Academy of International Business (WAIB), and by Rosalie Tung, in running a diversity survey in 2015 during her period of office as president. That snapshot of the state of AIB suggested members felt our Academy had done a better job in terms of inclusiveness than other academic associations, while pointing to scope for improvement. This jumpstarted our new endeavors.

At this point, I must mention AIB’s three ethical codes, developed over the past 15 years through the dedicated efforts of Lorraine Eden. Our codes of ethics cover our journals, our leaders, and our members. Diversity & Inclusion has a close relationship with ethics, and our policies as equality is at the heart of each. This year, chaired by past president Rosalie Tung, our Ethics Policy Committee (EPC) is engaged in a campaign of communication and dissemination of our ethics policies. And when concerns arise, AIB’s Ethics Review Committee (ERC) stands ready, chaired by Paul Vaaler.

How D&I is Helping Our Members

Price-Sensitive Membership Fees: Becoming an AIB member has never been more cost-effective—not only has the cost of joining or renewing been lowered across the board, now scholars living in countries classified as lower-middle and low-income are automatically qualified for a more affordable set of rates.

Low-Income Rate Extension: To alleviate some of the economic stress brought on by the global COVID-19 pandemic, AIB is waiving the qualification requirement for members  experiencing financial hardship, and offering the option to renew at the low-income rate, now through July 31, 2021. 1

Increased Conference Accessibility: For years, student stipends have helped young scholars cover the costs of attending our Annual Meetings. Now, with AIB 2021 having transitioned to a fully online event, all attendees will have access to the lowest registration rates ever offered.

Pilot D&I Pulse Survey: This targeted test-run of our D&I surveying system will help us find more effective ways to translate community feedback into specific actions that can be spearheaded by the AIB Diversity & Inclusion Taskforce.

Dedicated D&I Discussions at AIB 2021: At our upcoming Annual Meeting, we will debut new programming designed to help members have informed conversations about D&I’s role in our association and the IB field at large.

Building a New Generation of IB Leaders

The traditional route to increasing AIB’s diversity employs organic growth and prioritizes better communication and search procedures. These apply to our chapters, our shared interest groups (SIGs), our journals, and our Fellows. To these we can now add AIB’s committees and taskforces, which are the “engines” of AIB’s latest policies and initiatives. Our recent open call for volunteers for AIB committees & taskforces–now completed for this year–resulted in over 50 members stepping forward. Currently, we are in the process of making the best selections that we can. As is well-known, in organizations, increasing diversity is one necessary step, but promoting inclusion can only be done by consciously bringing these new voices into activities and leadership, on an equal basis with everyone else.

Our “Open Call” has revealed a pent-up willingness on the part of our members to serve AIB, and this will feed into realizing our ambitions for D&I. As our published call put it:

“AIB needs new talent, and greater diversity in its leadership positions. This is a great opportunity for underrepresented voices to make themselves heard and have a major impact on the strategic direction of our association.”

The drive for diversity and inclusion suffuses every corner of AIB. Today, in nominating candidates for AIB Fellowship, existing fellows are specifically encouraged to consider diversity and inclusion.

Why was 2021 Selected as AIB’s Year of Diversity & Inclusion?

When I became president, a year ago, on my long list of must do’s was D&I. 2020 was a trying and tragic year for the world, and it took until the 2020-21 AIB Executive Board to ask one of our new vice presidents of administration (VPAs), Dana Minbaeva, to head up a Diversity & Inclusion taskforce, under the AIB Board. Dana has set about this enthusiastically and energetically with a team she put together herself.

As AIB is a global organization, we must be mindful of respecting local customs and traditions but, at the same time we have our ethics, and our unfolding program of diversity & inclusion that, ultimately must be implemented universally. As many of us study aspects of culture, we recognize we will need both skill and good judgement. And the way to address this is to make sure that we – AIB – are, ourselves, diverse and inclusive.

So, we must lead in becoming diverse and inclusive as an Academy – which is why 2021 will be our year of Diversity & Inclusion or, rather, our first year within a future in which AIB strives, every year, to meet our aspirations regarding diversity and inclusion. We will surely discover, every year, that we have not achieved as much as we would wish, but that will just redouble our resolve to do better the next year.

That is why we now have our Diversity & Inclusion Taskforce, chaired by Dana. This taskforce will enable AIB to create a framework for experimentation and align our existing actions (already mentioned) with new initiatives. At present, the Taskforce’s plans are taking shape. It is clear that our Taskforce will need to work with the different “components” of AIB, by which we mean our chapters and Shared Interest Groups, also our journals and the AIB Board’s committees and taskforces and, last but not least, our Fellows.

What Lies Ahead?

You might expect, and you would be right, that our D&I Taskforce has yet more ideas that are at too early a stage to write about now. But, as we expand AIB globally, we must find new ways of giving voice to our members, wherever they are within the Academy. The pandemic is damaging and challenging to equality between people, and between peoples. There is no more appropriate time to act.

I hope you will all join with me, the AIB Board, and D&I Taskforce, in making 2021 AIB’s year of Diversity & Inclusion.

1 This waiver does not apply to members residing in World Bank High Income economies. If you live in one of those countries, you can still take advantage of our low-income rates by meeting the appropriate qualification criteria.