The Center for Ethics, Diversity and Workplace Culture (CEDWC) is the brainchild of Leora Eisenstadt, associate professor in the Department of Legal Studies at the Fox School of Business at Temple University. The center, which soft-launched in Spring 2020, will be a hub for research, dialogue and innovation.
To get a sense of the past, present and future of the center, the Fox Editorial Team caught up with Eisenstadt.
What was the inspiration behind developing CEDWC?
Prior to the Black Lives Matter movement and in the wake of the #MeToo movement, I realized that numerous companies were not focusing on workplace culture issues, especially in the gender context. All of a sudden, this indifference or lack of attention began to result in brand reputation issues. People were leaving companies in very public ways and writing about their experiences online. Blog posts and tweets garnered significant attention especially in the area of sexual harassment, making workplace culture issues both internal and external problems for companies.
I began thinking about this beyond the realm of sexual harassment. We have left a lot of the harassment, implicit bias, overt discrimination, retaliation and workplace culture issues in general to lawyers and law schools. That’s how I come to it, too, as my background in Employment Law. But business students, who eventually become managers, are the ones who are going to have to deal with these issues on a daily basis. So we need to be educating them—now—about the importance of workplace culture issues.
And today, the Black Lives Matter movement has both demonstrated the urgency of these issues and expanded the breadth of what we need to talk about. Students need to learn about diversity and workplace culture issues in school, they need to practice having difficult conversations because they will surely have them when they enter the workplace. So while sexual harassment and workplace culture issues were my origination point, our endpoint is a center that looks at race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, disability and more. The center will consider diversity from all of these perspectives.
What will CEDWC offer to students?
Our plan is to educate undergraduates, graduate students and professionals. We will be sponsoring large-scale events like a speaker series and day-long conferences to delve deeper into issues from both academic and practical perspectives. We will be supporting faculty who want to bring these issues into their classrooms, providing guest speakers and curricular ideas. Eventually, we hope to offer Experiential Learning opportunities in collaboration with our corporate partners. And we will begin offering Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) training to professionals. CEDWC’s goal is to provide educational experiences for members of our community at all stages of their careers.
Can you briefly describe your experience with researching topics such as ethics, diversity and workplace culture?
My focus is on employment discrimination in all its forms. I have written about fluid identity (multiracial and transgender) discrimination, the intersection of racism and language in the workplace, suppressed anger and the laws on workplace retaliation. I’ve also written about implicit bias and proposed including implicit bias in the legal structure with an eye to incentivizing businesses to take implicit bias more seriously.
Most employment law scholars focus on workers and workers’ rights. And that is initially the angle that I came to this from. But being at a business school has pushed me to look at it from both sides of the relationship. So often in my research, I am advocating a position that is helpful to both employees and employers. I show areas where there’s an alignment of interests and how these ideas can actually benefit a business’s bottom line.
What will the center do differently than similar centers at other universities?
There are a number of ethics centers and centers on leadership around the country, but our focus on diversity and workplace culture makes us fairly unique. And the choice to house the center at the Fox School of Business and the School of Tourism, Sport, and Hospitality Management (STHM) at Temple is no accident. Fox and STHM have increasingly diverse student, staff and faculty populations and are focused on building a healthy, inclusive culture internally.
The center’s plans are ambitious and varied. We’re going to sponsor research and host conferences to bring together academics, industry professionals and government officials who are focused on these areas and can make a difference. We want to bring whistleblowers and other changemakers who can speak directly to our students. We plan to invite chief diversity officers to come and speak to our students about their work, their careers and what to expect when they enter the workplace. We also have plans to train professionals and provide opportunities for our industry partners to work with and learn from our faculty who are experts in topics like artificial intelligence and implicit bias, anger in the workplace, organizational climate and other relevant areas.
What does success look like to you?
I envision four or five major events per year, ongoing research that is sponsored by the center and shared with the Fox School and STHM, and a general sense of engagement across all departments. This is not a center that is housed in one department or specific to one area of business. This is a center that can provide resources throughout the school.
We want every student to come out of Fox and STHM with an understanding of discrimination and harassment, the benefits of a diverse workforce, and the essential nature of inclusion efforts. No matter whether a student majors in finance, statistics, marketing, accounting or MIS, diversity and workplace culture issues should be part of that student’s education—that type of broad reach throughout the school would look like success to me.
How do you envision working with other departments? How interdisciplinary is the center’s mission and work?
There are some departments that are obvious partners for the center, like Legal Studies and Human Resource Management. But partnering with departments such as Management Information Systems, Finance, Risk, Insurance and Healthcare Management, and Statistical Science (to name just a few) is also critical. Truthfully, these issues are relevant in some way to the work of every department at Fox and STHM.
How will this center strive to be as inclusive as possible?
Once we’re fully “open for business,” we’ll be doing a number of things.
First, we’ll have a group of faculty fellows. Any faculty member who is interested in making an impact around these issues will be invited to be a fellow in their area of expertise. Fellows will be invited to meet monthly to share research, consider new projects and collaborations, and help frame the center’s agenda and priorities.
We also anticipate convening an Alumni Leadership Council that will help us engage the next generation of business leaders. We will host symposia or workshops where students can come and network with businesses that are interested in workplace culture issues. This is an opportunity to engage employers who tend to hire our students and who are anxious to diversify their workforces.
And we have built a Senior Advisory Board with corporate partners so that the center will be guided by a group of senior executives in talent management, culture change, and diversity, equity, and inclusion from top companies.
Have you identified the board members yet?
I have been working over the last year and a half with James Hansen, assistant dean for Development and Alumni Relations, and Megan Panaccio, director, Corporate and Foundation Relations to build a Senior Advisory Board made up of executives from top regional and national companies. The inaugural Board Chair is Ben Hasan, SVP and chief culture diversity & inclusion officer at Walmart and Fox graduate. The Board members are senior executives in DEI, talent management and related fields from Advanced Auto Parts, AIG, Aon, Campbell’s Soup, Comcast, EY, FMC, Lincoln Financial Group, Lockheed Martin, Nixon Peabody, PwC, Rothman Orthopedic Institute and SAP. And companies are still joining.
These companies are really interested in giving, both in funding and idea generation, in this area. There is a huge amount of enthusiasm about and attention to this work right now and the center is poised to tap into that excitement and bring it to our students. This is the right time to be creating a Center for Ethics, Diversity, and Workplace Culture, and the Fox School and STHM are the perfect places to do it.