Category Archives: Equality

Feeling the Pain

By Robin Porsfelt.

While the recent US ’opioid crisis’ has been widely reported, a second, less recognized, crisis related to opioids has been taking place, and is still ongoing, more quietly in countries with less Western media visibility. Whereas the crisis in the US is arguably related to an over-subscription to opioid-based pain relief, such as OxyContin, the second crisis could rather be seen as a case of too tightly regulated access to opioids in health-care systems. This is at least the argument of a recent report commissioned by The Lancet which proclaims that the world is experiencing an under-management of pain where as many as 25 million people are suffering partly as a result of regulatory and cultural approaches to the use of opioids.

Severe lack of access

The report was the result of a three-year study on the integration and access of pain relief and palliative care in health systems. It opens with a succinct description of the problem: “Poor people in all parts of the world live and die with little or no palliative care or pain relief. Staring into this access abyss, one sees the depth of extreme suffering in the cruel face of poverty and inequity” (Knaul, Farmer & Krakauer et al, 2017: 1).

Those suffering from lack of access to adequate medication are predominantly found in low-income and middle-income countries, often with terminal illnesses, and includes approximately 2.5 million children dying with, what the report terms, ‘serious health-related suffering’ each year (Knaul, Farmer & Krakauer et al, 2017: 2). Of the almost 300 metric tons of morphine-equivalent opioids distributed annually, only 0.1 metric tons reach health systems in low-income countries. This is something the report’s authors condemn as: “a medical, public health, and moral failing and a travesty of justice” (Knaul, Farmer & Krakauer et al, 2017: 1).

Addiction and pain relief

But what are the reasons for this state of potentially unnecessary suffering? In contrast to many other debates on access to medication, the problem is in this case not predominantly related to questions of scarcity, costs, or tightly enforced intellectual property rights to drugs, but rather a mix of cultural and regulatory factors. There are (at least) two factors that explain the pattern: One is a lack of visibility due to fragmented patient advocacy and exclusion of pain alleviation from standard measures of health. Another key factor is that opioids do not only fall under the scope of medical regulation but are also controlled substances under international drug conventions (Ibid.).

As substances such as morphine are listed and regulated as narcotic substances by the UN, they become part of a machinery of international checks and balances on their flow, including import quotas and reporting requirements. The UN treaties are based on two imperatives, on the one hand the limitation of harmful and addictive substances, and on the other hand to secure access to medically vital analgesics.[1] In recent decades, the war on a drugs-compatible first imperative of strict control has become increasingly dominant, making such medication harder to access (Knaul, Farmer & Krakauer et al, 2017: 8).

A second related issue suggested by the report is ‘opiophobia’, described as prejudice and misinformation concerning medical use of opioids. Whereas a balanced approach to opioid prescriptions is needed, a prevalent fear of non-medical use and its side-effects among health-care providers, regulators, and patients have led to an underestimation of needs and insufficient medical use in many countries (Ibid.).

What’s to be done

Even though this inequity in pain relief is indeed under-acknowledged, potential solutions should at least, in theory, not be gridlocked by economic interests. As morphine and morphine-like medication is cheap to produce and commonly used in Western medical systems, the problem is rather about framing and contesting stigmatization. While acknowledging the risks with a too laissez-faire approach, there is a need to recognize the value in a controlled medical use of opioids to avoid unnecessary suffering as well.

A way to do so, as the report highlights, would for instance be a broadening of the third Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) on ensuring healthy lives and well-being for all. Currently, the battle against substance abuse is covered in the SDG target 3.5, a step forward however would be to include pain alleviation and access to pain relief as similarly essential objectives – for instance as part of SDG target 3.8 on universal health coverage. As a measure, this is of course not enough, but at the current stage, and given the documented ‘abyss’ of equity in pain treatment worldwide, simply diagnosing the issue as problematic per se would to some degree seem like progress.


[1] A member of a group of drugs to achieve analgesia, i.e. relief from pain. (editor’s note)


Knaul, F. M., Farmer, P. E., Krakauer, E. L., et al. (2017). Alleviating the access abyss in palliative care and pain relief––an imperative of universal health coverage: The Lancet Commission report. Lancet. DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(17)32513-8

Robin Porsfelt is a PhD fellow at the Department of Management, Society and Communication. He is part of a PhD cohort on time and societal challenges, with particular research interests in the sociology of valuation and global governance

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash.

Wonder Tech and the Institution of Gender

by Jeremy Moon

“I didn’t realize that I was a woman until I went to the US.”

This was the rather arresting comment of a keynote speaker at the WonderTech Summit in Copenhagen, organized by a group of, mainly female, IT professionals. The speaker in question (a Senior Vice President of a leading MNC and leader of a women’s innovation initiative) explained that this awakening to gender was because in her home country, Denmark, she was used to being treated as another ‘person’ and, by inference, equal to men.

I have noted elements of equality in Denmark in: the extent of public funding for schools (overwhelmingly mixed sex) and parental leave; and the involvement of fathers in parenting. However, this is not to suggest that there is no gender institution in Denmark. The speaker referred to her disappointment that Denmark was only ranked 14th in the World Economic Forum Report for Women, and some other speakers alluded to the institution of gender in the tech industry and higher education in Denmark, and the way it worked against women.

Gender as an Institution – marco, meso and micro level

This comment struck me as a nice illustration of the idea of gender as an institution[1]: the way gender delineates the largely taken for granted roles of men and women. At the systemic (macro) level there are the respective norms, laws and rules. At the organizational (meso) level gender regimes shape the ‘way things are done here’. At the individual (micro) level there are the gendered practices in daily interactions. Of course, the gender institution is manifest in different ways in different places as illustrated by the aforementioned speaker’s contrast of its operation in Denmark and the USA.

So what, I wondered, would be the approach to this issue recommended at the conference whose purpose was ‘to celebrate the achievements of women in the industry and inspire diversity in tech’?

I was interested in the way participants addressed gender in their contexts. The aforementioned speaker advised that women disappointed in job / promotion applications, should not complain but try harder and better next time. Another speaker referred to a role model for women in blockchain entrepreneurship who advised ‘not to talk about gender’. The emphasis was upon innovation and taking initiatives at the individual level, and the numerous awards that were made enabled yet more such personal stories to be told. Wilma Rudolph was a used as a role model by one speaker (check out her amazing story of overcoming obstacles of socio-economic means and physical disability alone).

Network merit

Another key theme of the conference was at the meso level but focusing not on the oppressive organization, but on women’s self-help networks for mentoring, capacity building, career modelling, and sheer encouragement. The conference was replete with evidence of network organizations and social enterprises working in the field.

All this was so positive. The conference speakers and participants seem confident in their abilities to work professionally and effectively. There was little sense of inferiority or ‘being a woman’ in their organizations. How representative or scalable are these stories?

Too little attention on the political level

Which leads to my final observation that there was little attention to the systemic, or political, level of the gender institution to advance the careers of participants at WonderTech, even though the conference did give cases of ‘solving problems for people, businesses, and the planet’ (e.g. how ICT could be deployed to address systemic obstacles to equality for women in developing countries?).

Solving Problems for People, Businesses, and the Planet.

Can the inspiring individual stories and the network values and achievements carry the day or will more political action along the lines of the suffragettes or #MeToo be required? This might be to increase female participation in Tech science education, to increase women leaders in the Tech industry, and to enable women not to need ‘to feel like women’ – at least when doing so is a sign of adverse effects of the gender institution?[2]


[1] The subject of a forthcoming paper with Lauren McCarthy (more when it is published)

[2] Former Soviet countries lead the EU rankings of women in the tech workforce, presumably a legacy both of their policies of enrolling the brightest students in specialist maths high schools, and of current practices of selecting equal numbers of boys and girls in these schools, and encouraging girls to study computer science at university

Jeremy Moon with some help from Marjahan Begum, Plamena Cherneva, Lavinia-Cristina Iosif-Lazar and Lauren McCarthy.

Jeremy Moon is professor at the Department of Management, Society and Communication, member of the Governing Responsible Business Environment and holds the VELUX Chair of Corporate Sustainability, all at Copenhagen Business School.


Pic by Jennifer C, Flickr.

The Winners and Losers of Reward-based Crowdfunding

By Kristian Roed Nielsen.

Proponents of reward-based crowdfunding have touted its emergence as an alternative source of innovation finance as an exciting and democratizing event. This democratization is enabled via the unique blend of crowdsourcing (Poetz and Schreier 2012) and micro-financing (Morduch 1999). Fundraising is enabled by a widely dispersed community of users, whose interactions are facilitated by one or more platforms (e.g., IndieGoGo, Kickstarter, Kiva), trading “a small group of sophisticated investors” for “large audiences (the ‘crowd’)” (Belleflamme, Lambert, and Schwienbacher 2014:2). But how does the change in investors really change who is rewarded – basically who are the winners and losers of reward-based crowdfunding? It was with this question in mind that Caleb Gallemore, Kristjan Jespersen and I set out to follow the money and identify exactly where and who benefits from this new source of finance by analyzing data from the large US-based reward-based platform IndieGoGo.

Where does the (crowd) money go and why?
Firstly, and perhaps not surprisingly, it appears that it is the already affluent regions that benefit the most from crowdfunding activities, while less well-off areas still receive the short end of the stick. Clearly while crowdfunding may offer an extra opportunity for achieving financing, this does not offset other factors that play an important role in entrepreneurial success e.g. background, education and social network that favour areas already affluent.

More surprisingly we also found that increased competition – i.e. more campaigns – actually increase the likelihood of funding success. For each percentage increase in the number of campaigns in the same neighborhood, we estimate a decrease of about 11% in the odds that each of those campaigns will receive no funding pledges. Indicating the increased competition actually results in a net positive outcome where campaigns rather than leeching of one another, generate momentum for further success. This may be because of increased levels of visibility of crowdfunding activities as a whole at the local level. In other words, people living in areas with more crowdfunding activities might be more aware of the practice, increasing the pool of potential investors. Another possibility is that areas with high levels of crowdfunding activities might generate local communities that can share knowledge and advice about the process, improving the quality of local ventures.

Finally, and still undergoing analysis, we increasingly find that certain people are – naturally – more successful then others at achieving crowdfunding success. Witnessing that for each successful campaign launched by an individual or group the likelihood for future success increases dramatically – hence after five successful campaigns launched by a given person or group they have a near 100 pct. chance of future success. We are perhaps witnessing the birth of the professional crowdfunder.

Crowdfunding as the democratizing agent of innovation?
As money seems to coalesce around certain regions and individuals we have to wonder whether this trend will continue. Will we increasingly see certain regions and individuals benefitting while other less well-off or professional lose out? And what does this mean for crowdfunding as the democratizing agent of innovation? It offers opportunity for you and I to drive innovation, but that innovation process itself perhaps unsurprisingly still seems to cluster around certain regions and persons. While this is by no means the final word – this is still early day research of only one sample – these observations nevertheless complicate the idea of relying on crowdfunding as a new mechanism for economic development, poverty reduction, or social action. While crowdfunding certainly provides a new way to access capital, it may not provide such access equitably.

Kristian is Assistant Professor at the Department of Management, Society and Communication and Visiting Researcher at Mistra Center for Sustainable Markets – Stockholm School of Economics. His research explores the potential role that “the crowd” could play in enabling sustainable entrepreneurship and innovation. Follow him on Twitter @RoedNielsen.

Pic by olgavisavi, via Fotolia.

After #Metoo: Are We as Equal as We Would Like to Think?

By Sara Louise Muhr & Florence Villesèche.

The me too movement was founded in 2006 by Tarana Burke to help survivors of sexual violence, but it was not until after the public revelations of sexual misconduct allegations against Harvey Weinstein in October 2017 that it went viral as a hashtag and ended up demonstrating the world-wide prevalence of sexual assault and harassment, especially in the workplace.

It has been a shock to many how widespread sexual assault and harassment is – not least in a Scandinavian context, where the assumption of equality and respect long has been a foundational societal value. The massive amount of me too stories from Scandinavia – from all social classes, all occupations, all ages and ethnicities – have forced us to take another hard look at our beloved equality and ask the question ‘are men and women after all as equal as we would like to think?’.

Let’s look at some numbers…
And if we look at the numbers, we’re not… Just to take a few examples: Denmark has 6 % female CEOs in private companies, Denmark has a 16 % overall gender pay gap: 30 % among CEOs, 6,6 % among newly educated candidates, 2,6 % among our students. Around 50 % experience sexual harassment at work. Moreover, all studies point to the fact that women (and other minorities) are consistently evaluated lower than (white) men and women (and other minorities) systematically receive shorter, less-praise worthy letters of recommendation compared to (white) men.

What’s in a fight?
This means that we are not as equal as we would like to think. Some bodies fit the business world; some have to fight their way up and deal with a lot of resistance on the way. The difference here lies in the fight. Those women who make it to the top, are those who don’t give up. They are those who can take it, who have the power (or patience) to deal with or fight off the sexism and sexual harassment they are faced with on the way, every day.

Other bodies who fit the context of the business world, don’t have to fight. They just fit in. We might therefore on paper have equal opportunities, but some bodies meet resistance, some fit and do not meet resistance. As Sarah Ahmed argues in an essay about ‘Phenomenology of Whiteness’, if whiteness is our starting point – the default – then the black body is out of place. A black body is a black body; a white body is just a body. Similarly, the female body is out of place, not at home, not natural in a top management context. A female leader is a therefore always already a female leader; a male leader is just a leader. A female leader cannot escape her body.

The privilege of invisibility
This links to the privilege of invisibility, the privilege of ‘fitting’ the context, fitting the room. Karen Ashcraft refers to this as the glass slipper. Certain bodies fit certain occupations, whereas other bodies need to adapt and adjust and never really fit, always stand out. This is both the female top-manager and the male kindergarten teacher; the female fire-fighter or the male stay at home dad. The problem here, is not necessarily ‘not fitting the room’. Rather, the problem is the harassment, which is normalized against the ones not fitting the room. This is what the wide impact of the me too campaign has shown: The normalization and naturalisation of sexism against women at the workplace – from demeaning comments to actual sexual assault – which holds women back, keeps men in a positions of power; makes it necessary for women to fight for their right to a career, stick it out, deal with all the crap. It is a normalization of harassment and bullying of various kinds targeted the bodies that don’t fit in. And as Jaqueline Rose points out in a recent article in London Review of books, although sexism and harassment is often excused by being just for fun or a singular slip, it is ‘’never innocent, or a mere trifle, playful, or a ‘joke’‘.

The aggregation of micro aggressions
We therefore need to call out the sexism that sieves through every layer of our society and is weaved into our workplace cultures. Sexism is naturalized to a degree that many even feel entitled to it. Like the other day when one of us was presenting a diversity and inclusion plan to increase the number of female professors at our university, where a male participant in full honestly claimed that the low number of female professors was ‘natural’ as ‘it is scientifically proven that men are more intelligent than women’. Nobody said anything, nobody called out the injustice of such a remark, it was seen as his right to say this. The problem here is that nobody realises that micro aggressions like this – or remarks and behaviour which are even worse – are repeated every single day. And where they in and of themselves possibly can be seen as innocent and as jokes or as a remark from one radical person, together they construct the foundation of our work culture and in this way aggregated create systematic discrimination. The below quote from the everyday sexism project powerfully shows how everyday micro aggressions function in bulks:

Board member in my office: “how’s my little staff girl doing?” Same board member at an event: “it’s okay about your tits — I’m an ass man.” Another board member: “how’d a pretty girl like you get so smart?” Another board member, “I actually like that you’re so outspoken.” Another board member: “just type this up for me.” Sign on my way to work: “real men vote for Trump.” Bumper sticker on the car in front of me: “don’t be sexist — broads hate that!” At the supermarket, “gimme a smile, baby.” In the parking lot, “move it, you fat bitch.” New stories every day, every day, every day. (Website post, April 2017, Tags: Everywhere, Public space, Workplace. Themes Bodies; Experience; Resignation)

It is about time we wake up and realize that gender imbalance at management and board level, is not just because women rather want to stay at home or are less ambitious or don’t have what it takes. We have a problem with systematic discrimination in the form of every day micro aggressions – covering everything from demeaning comments to sexual harassment. And it is not a sustainable development. We do not use all the talent we have at hand when we systematically discourage parts of the population. Times up!

Sara Louise Muhr is Associate Professor at Copenhagen Business School. Her research focuses on critical perspectives on managerial identity, diversity, and HRM, and has appeared in journals such as Organization Studies, Organization; Gender, Work and OrganizationJournal of Business Ethics, Culture & Organization and Scandinavian Journal of Management.

Florence Villesèche is Assistant Professor at Copenhagen Business School. She is a Marie Curie Fellow and received an Emerald/EFMD Highly Commended Award for outstanding doctoral research. Her published work about diversity, identity and networks includes contributions to Human RelationsEuropean Management Review, Personnel Review, and Equality, Diversity & Inclusion.

Pic by Kristopher Roller, Unsplash. Edited by BOS.

Empowerment Inc.

By Lauren McCarthy.

  • Empowering individual women will not on its own bring about a transformation in gender relations between men and women
  • There’s a focus on economic empowerment at the detriment of other forms of equality
  • If ‘empowerment’ becomes a byword for individualised wealth accumulation, led by corporations, then it loses its transformative magic

Approximate reading time: 2-3 minutes.

Girl Power meets Corporate Power
What does ‘empowerment’ mean? To give oneself some sort of power? This is the crux of empowerment’s initial meaning, but today the concept has been hacked apart and put back together again into some kind of neoliberal Frankenstein’s monster. We’ve seen adverts selling leggings, moisturiser and make-up touted as ‘empowering’, while the ‘clean, sculptural lines’ of designer clothing promise to empower. Sheryl Sandberg and other elite women business leaders speak of the empowerment that comes with ‘leaning in’ at work- but oh, don’t forget to #BanBossy. And some of the biggest investments in recent years have been seen in ‘women’s empowerment programmes’, especially those in supply chains in the global South.

Three Major Problems with Empowerment Inc.
In my recent publication in Business Ethics Quarterly I reflect on one of these programmes, and some of the challenges that come with our modern-day contortions of empowerment.

First, there’s the focus on individuals. Gender equality is about social transformation- it’s about equality and equity for human beings regardless of their sex or gender. So a focus on empowering individual women may make life better for that one woman- but it will not on its own bring about a transformation in gender relations between men and women.

Second, there’s the focus on economic empowerment at the detriment of other forms of equality. Of course it’s great if women can earn more from their micro-businesses (or earn mega-bucks as CEOs). But without the social standing to challenge patriarchy, and without voice in political systems, long-term gender equality is far from won.

Third, we need to talk about who is doing the empowering. So much of corporate rhetoric on empowerment is corporate led- ‘we will empower’, ‘we will enable’. Where are the voices of the women themselves in all this? In the 1960s and 70s, in the era of civil rights movements and women’s liberation, empowerment was associated with consciousness-raising and the importance of people (often in groups) recognising the structural power relations which oppressed them- and their own ‘power within’ to challenge oppression. Empowerment, then, is related to society- and to oppressed groups finding their own economic, social and political power within that society. Empowerment is not ‘done onto’ another.

Remember Radicalism?
Promoting gender equality is a much-needed string to the CSR bow. Yet if ‘empowerment’ becomes a byword for individualised wealth accumulation, led by corporations, then it loses its transformative magic. As my colleague Jeremy argued in a recent BOS blog– we need to make feminism- and by association empowerment- radical again.

Lauren McCarthy is a Lecturer in Strategy and Sustainability at Royal Holloway, University of London and a Velux Visiting Fellow, at Copenhagen Business School. She tweets @genderCSR.

Pic by Tara, edited by BOS.

’Make Feminism Radical Again’

By Jeremy Moon.

Approximate reading time: 3-4 minutes.

’Make Feminism Radical Again’ – An unlikely fashion choice in some quarters but, yes, a fellow passenger at Copenhagen airport was donning a T-shirt bearing just this slogan.

The wearing of political slogans always sets off questions in my mind, as I try to imagine what goes through the wearer’s mind.

‘What shall I wear today?  Ah yes, I’m flying, I think that the fellow passengers need a dose of radicalization’.  ‘Wednesday: shall it be women’s rights or animal rights?’
‘I need a white T shirt with these jeans. Ah well, this is the only clean one left in the drawer.  It will do.’

Or maybe they are really committed and wear one of these shirts every day?
Or maybe they just don this shirt without a second thought?

The questions in my head wouldn’t stop.

‘When was feminism radical?’
‘What does she mean by radical?’
‘What would it mean for women?’
‘What would it mean for society?’
‘What would it mean for me?’

Gender – a salient concern in CSR and business ethics literatures?
As it happens Kate Grosser, Julie Nelson and I had just put the finishing touches to an essay on the place of gender in the business ethics and corporate social responsibility academic literatures over the last quarter of a century.

So it was really great to see this topic that we had been weighing up in our usual academic ways was ‘out there on the streets’… or at least in the security check area…

Kate, Julie and I had found that the subject of gender had enjoyed some status in this literature (as measured by the number of articles published on the subject in the leading business ethics and corporate social responsibility journals).

The de-radicalization of feminist theory to an empirical variable
On closer analysis we were struck that, whereas the original debates in these literatures about gender had been inspired by the core of feminism (notably the concerns with gender relations and gender equality) this focus had subsequently appeared to get weaker.  Only 20% of the papers in our study focused on this feminist core, and the remainder used gender as a variable in studies of attitudes towards social, environmental or economic issues, or of ethical dilemmas.

Moreover, we were surprised that only 15% of the studies addressing gender issues in the business ethics /corporate social responsibility literature were theoretical papers (and the majority of these referenced theory from outwith feminism).  While empirical papers are clearly a vital part of the literature, theorization is necessary for evaluation of empirical work, and for framing the way academic subjects, in this case feminism, are thought about and studied in the empirical work.

We also noted that the empirical literature was overwhelmingly focused on countries in the ‘Global North’ despite many of the greatest challenges in gender relations and equality being in the ‘Global South’.

Reflecting on our academic journey into feminism, I wondered if what my fellow passenger meant by wearing that slogan was … ’Make feminism radical again by focusing on gender relations and equality’.  But when I had finally plucked up the courage to ask her… she had gone.

P.S. My friend Lauren tells me that there are other feminist T-shirts available
… but none are quite as to the point as that on my fellow traveller…

Jeremy Moon is Velux Professor of Corporate Sustainability at the Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility, CBS. He has written widely about the rise, context, dynamics and impact of CSR.  He is particularly interested in corporations’ political roles and in the regulation of CSR and corporate sustainability. Jeremy is the author of Corporate Social Responsibility: A Very Short Introduction (2014 Oxford) and co-author of Visible Hands: Government Regulation and International Business Responsibility (2017 Cambridge).

Pic by Jonathan Eyler-Werve, edited by BOS.

When diversity is everyone’s business

By Jannick Friis Christensen.

In April, CBS celebrated not only its centenary but also how diverse the business school has become over the years on Diversity Day 2017. If unconscious bias—along with stereotypes and prejudice—is what undermines diversity efforts in organisations, then, what difference can such a (diversity) day make? We took an experimental research approach to organising CBS Diversity Day to find out.

The purpose of CBS Diversity Day is to put a strong focus on diversity and inclusion both internally in our own organisation and in educating future business leaders. One way of supporting this double purpose is to organise events that introduce the concepts of diversity and inclusion to the 22,000 students at CBS as well as to our researchers and administrative staff. In particular, we do this on Diversity Day.

How to approach organisational diversity?

In previous years, focus has been on putting to the forefront best practices in companies that manage to use their core competencies in creating an organisation, which is sustainable both financially and socially – in other words the good business case. We believe that CBS should be perceived as an organisation committed to promoting diversity and inclusion.

We would like to acquaint the CBS community with the diversity represented by the people—for example ability/disability, sexual orientation, gender, ethnicity, religion, and nationality—who study and work at CBS and how their experiences may differ as a result of those differences. In doing so, emphasis this year was on the practical implications of how to approach organisational diversity in a way meaningful to all parties involved, including those aforementioned groups typically casted as being diverse. It was therefore not a question of defining what diversity is or if it ‘pays off’ but rather to explore how diversity issues may inspire different practices for alternative and more inclusive organising.

Researching diversity requires diverse approaches

The idea was to challenge any ‘conventional’ knowledge diversity and inclusion and we were interested in measuring the overall potential effect(s) of Diversity Day, that is, the combination of events that included logical-rational as well as emotional and action- and solution-oriented presentations. All presentations were live-streamed and recorded and can be watched via this link.

A citizen science approach was adopted prior to Diversity Day to allow the student population at Copenhagen Business School to identity the problem that will be turned into our research issue. This was done by having a random sample of students fill in a questionnaire about the diversity issues of ethnicity and religion in Denmark. This part of the study is expected to show to what degree students hold explicit bias towards ethnic and religious minorities.

To measure implicit bias and the potential impact of Diversity Day we designed clicker tests that were conducted before and after each scheduled event. We expect the results from these tests to show a reduction in latency as the day progressed, since the respondents ought to spend less time becoming consciously aware of own unconscious biases due to a heightened awareness level prompted by the critically reflexive focus on various diversity issues. The results will, however, not be able to say anything about whether this change (if any) will last or whether it I will lead to changes in behaviour – only that a momentary bias reduction can be achieved.

The final part of the project consists of focus group interviews to get an in-depth understanding of participants’ own perceptions of and experiences with Diversity Day as well as to follow up on the questionnaires and clicker tests. Due to the experimental research design we need elaborations on the various aspects from the participants’ perspectives. The interviews take place in weeks 25 and 26 so if you attended CBS Diversity Day 2017 on 27 April we would like to hear from you. Sign up via this link by adding your name + email and select the dates/timeslots that fit your calendar. The interviews will take approximately 1-1½ hours and the questions will be open-ended for you to reflect on what you got out of Diversity Day. We aim for including five to seven people in each focus group and the interviews will be anonymized.

The next big diversity event is on 19 August 2017 where CBS for the first time joins the Copenhagen Pride Parade from Frederiksberg Town Hall at 13:00. Check for updates.

About Diversity Day

CBS Diversity Day 2017 was co-organised by Jannick Friis Christensen and Associate Professor Sara Louise Muhr (Dept. of Organization). The specific research project discussed in this blog post is conducted in collaboration with Associate Professor Ana Maria Munar (Dept. of International Economics and Management) and Postdoc Kristian Møller Moltke Martiny (University of Copenhagen).

Jannick Friis Christensen is PhD Fellow at the Department of Organization. His research project seeks to develop new methods for intervening diversity by bridging critical performativity theory with organisational practice and managerial discourse. It explores—ethnographically—the norms of diversity practices in contemporary organisations, granting insights into how perceptions of diversity are constructed discursively, and how they govern people’s conduct. And it challenges existing practices and render them productive through continuous critical reflection on the underlying norms. You can find Jannick on LinkedIn, Instragram, Twitter and Facebook.

Pic by Lise Søstrøm (MSC)

Creativity: Africa’s new gold?

By Ana Alacovska and Thilde Langevang.

Cocoa, precious minerals and crude oil ceased to be Africa’s only natural resources. Creativity is ‘the oil of the 21st century’ (Ross, 2008). Creativity and culture are nowadays intensely hailed by global development institutions as ‘a wonderstuff’ (Ross, 2008)—the magical passkey to Africa’s sustainable development—poised to propel inclusive growth, cultural diversity and job creation especially for young people, peripheral communities and women.  Under the auspices of the UN agencies such as UNESCO, UNDP and UNCTAD, the bold and buoyant discourses of cultural and creative industries are enthusiastically embraced throughout the continent: creative industries will help Africa ‘leapfrog’ into emerging high-growth global economies (UN Report on the Creative Economy, 2008, 2013); African creative industries will ‘unleash’ growth potential (UNIDO, 2013); creative industries are ‘Africa’s sleeping giant’.

Such upbeat narratives of creative industries provides the much-desired antidote to Afro-pessimism. In conjunction with the optimistic stories of ‘Africa on the rise’, creative industries promise to make over the negative image of Africa marked by poverty, war and diseases, and replace it with entrepreneurial drive, coolness, hipness and success. ‘Agenda 2063’, the African Union’s strategic framework for the continent’s development optimistically bets on the creative industries to engender future Pan-African ‘self-awareness, well-being and prosperity’. The creative policy craze trickles in global media as well. Young and hip African creative entrepreneurs – from ballet dancers, fashion designers and poets, to photographers, architects and game developers – prominently grace media stories across platforms.

But what is the current state of African creative industries and can they really deliver on their promise? Can creative industries lead to sustainable development? Can African countries straightforwardly import and implement a creative industries model developed elsewhere?

The marriage between culture and development has been for long a political ‘dream ticket’ (Pratt, 2014). The initial (UNESCO-driven, 1982) cultural policies envisaged development to be delivered via cultural resources (for example, national identity to be promoted through folk songs or health-related knowledge to be disseminated via community theater). In contrast, the current creative industries policies aspire to directly drive the development processes through job creation, environmental sustainability, and social cohesion on par with the other industries, despite the fact that the creative industries defy the traditional models of ‘industry’ in terms of modes of value creation, labour organization, supply chain management or IP regulation. Yet such high-flying promises may fall short of empirical support. While Africa may boom with creative talent the continent so far has not been able to profit much from it. Currently Africa’s share of the global trade in creative products remains marginal and in terms of employment creation we know little about how many people the creative industries actually employ, who they employ and under what conditions. Apart from the eulogizing creative industries discourses sparsely do we understand the actual lived dynamics of the allegedly newly-fangled creative, inclusive or sustainable jobs, in Africa’s creative industries.

To question the sustainable development potential of creative industries becomes ever more relevant if we bear in mind the findings about equality and diversity in those industries in the Global North. Current scholarship casts doubts on creative industries’ progressive, sustainable and inclusive potential. Such studies vehemently criticize the image of creative industries as cool, creative, egalitarian and meritocratic (Gill, 2002). Creative work is precarious, involving insecure, unpaid and irregular employment. Study after study demonstrates that women are severely underrepresented, victimized and discriminated against in the creative industries in the Global North (see the contributions to the latest special issue of Organization entitled Diversifying the Creative: Creative Work, Creative Industries, Creative Identities (Finkel et al., 2017) as well as contributions to the special issue on Gender and Creative Labour by Conor et al., 2015). Class, race and ethnic inequalities are rampant in the music and publishing industries in the UK (O’Brien et al., 2016). People with disabilities are even further systematically excluded and disadvantaged in the film and television industries (Randle and Hardy, 2017).

Given such a state of affairs, the answer to whether creative industries can lead to sustainable development in Africa can be neither rushed nor divested from future rigorous and systematic research-based understanding of the cultural, social, economic, historical and technological specificities of African creative industries, in all their elusiveness, peculiarities, definitional hurdles and ambivalences.

Ana Alacovska is Assistant Professor and Thilde Langevang  is Associate Professor at the Department of Management, Society and Communication at CBS. Alacovska researches the creative/cultural industries, creative work and cultural production, while Langevang’s research areas are in business and development studies with a particular focus on youth, entrepreneurship and micro- and small enterprises in Africa.

Photo by Thilde Langevang.