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Academics, executives focus on ‘breaking bias’ at Purdue Conference

Monday, March 26, 2018

In the wake of the #MeToo social media movement, which exposed the prevalence of sexual assault and gender discrimination in the workplace, a recent conference at Purdue University’s Krannert School of Management served as a call to action among companies in the United States, says Ellen Ernst Kossek, Basil S. Turner Professor of Management and research director of the Susan Bulkeley Butler Center for Leadership Excellence.  

Since last year, numerous prominent actors, business executives, politicians and other men in leadership roles have been accused of sexual assault, harassment and other misconduct. While the movement has brought fresh attention to the issue, the struggle faced by women in the workforce has been researched for decades, Kossek says.

But most U.S. employers have failed to make improvements in their policies and procedures, Kossek says. She calls this discrepancy the research-to-practice gap.

“Gender and diversity have been hot issues in the media for several decades, but much progress remains to be made in creating more inclusive cultures,” she says. “If you get women into companies and policies aren’t improved, those employees are going to leave. That’s expensive to society, it’s costly to families and it’s costly to individuals when they undergo discrimination. It’s a waste of money.”

Kossek is a leading researcher on work-life balance and achieving gender equality and inclusion in the workplace. She was the organizer of a three-day conference at Purdue called “Breaking Bias: Leadership Excellence and Gender in Organizations Conference,” the theme of which was “Bridging the Research to Practice Gap.”

The conference, held March 21-23 on the Purdue University West Lafayette campus, featured speakers from companies leading the way in diversity and inclusion, including Amazon, Roche and McKinsey & Company, as well as renowned scholars from Stanford and Villanova universities and Simmons College. In addition to the Krannert School, other key organizers and sponsors included the Jane Brock-Wilson Women in Management Center and the Susan Bulkeley Butler Center for Leadership Excellence.

“The research-to-practice gap is a real problem in many areas of society, particularly when it comes to diversity and gender discrimination,” Kossek says. “We’re trying to address problems, identify evidence-based solutions and have an open dialogue between scholars and employers – something that is, unfortunately, too infrequently done.

"Researchers gained first-hand knowledge of the challenges and questions faced by corporations, and companies learned the latest findings and recommendations found both in academic research and in the best practices of their peers."

For highlights from the conference, visit Krannert on Twitter at https://twitter.com/PurdueKrannert. To view a photo gallery, visit us on Facebook at http://bit.ly/2G4LLDV.