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HEC Paris Tackles Political Correctness to Launch diversiTALKS Series

17 February 2017

On Monday February 20 HEC Paris hosts the first in a series of seminars - called “diversiTALKS” - devoted to diversity in business - with a searching look at political correctness inside and outside the business world. The evening event at HEC features academics, postgraduates and executives specialized on questions of diversity in western society.

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Trump’s Phantom Enemy

It was back in October 1990 that a series of New York Times articles brought the term “politically correct” into the mainstream… from where it has never really left. This Monday, Professor Matteo Winkler of the Law & Tax Department of HEC will chair what promises to be a lively exchange on contemporary visions of this loaded expression. The debate features HEC Associate Professor Mathis Schulte, Managing Director at the Boston Consulting Group Jean Mouton and LSE graduate in gender, policy and inequalities, Annabelle Blackburn. “We have been preparing this series of seminars for some while,” explains Matteo Winkler, “and we decided it was urgent to kick off with this focus on political correctness after Donald Trump took over the US presidency.”Indeed, throughout last year’s campaign the 45th US president has targeted political correctness as what The Guardian dubbed a “phantom enemy”, lambasting his presidential rivals for making American citizens suffer in the name of this nemesis. “Trump is a man who speaks through formulae,” pursues Matteo Winkler, “and he uses political correctness as a screen to attack the diversity our western society has been enjoying for decades now.” Famously, after the June 2016 massacre of 49 people at an Orlando nightclub Trump declared that the likes of his rival Hillary Clinton “have put political correctness above common sense, above your safety, and above all else. I refuse to be politically correct.”

Debating Beyond the USA

“While these issues have come to the fore in the United States,” says Matteo Winkler, “they are also very relevant in developments here in Europe. As our societies become more and more diverse, it’s important to discuss the place of political correctness in the workplace, in corporations and in higher education establishments like HEC Paris.” The final objective is to collect comments and reflections from these seminars in order to create a course on diversity management, to be proposed in the school’s next intakes. “This exchange can be seen as the first of a series of experiments exploring the theme of diversity and the space it should take, not only in our school but in corporations we work with.”

Panel Diversity

In the first debate, it will be Jean Mouton who will provide insight into corporate practices on political correctness when companies hire, promote or negotiate with employees. The veteran executive from BCG has helped redefine the strategies of global companies, accompanying several clients through acquisitions and mergers. Fellow-debater HEC Professor Mathis Schulte is likely to draw on his experiences here as well as at Wharton School and the University of Pennsylvania. He is currently involved in research on the creation of social networks within organizations, and their effects on employee satisfaction and customer service.LSE graduate Annabelle Blackburn, meanwhile, hopes to share her research into diversity, inclusion and gender equality in business. A passionate activist, Ms. Blackburn has been involved in activities as diverse as providing leadership for a new fundraising effort surrounding LGBT homeless youth and supporting the local chapter of The Vagina Monologues.The diversiTalks series is supported by LGBT+ Business, In&Out and HEC Women in Leadership Club. It is sponsored by the Dean of the Faculty, SnO, HEC Alumni, the HEC Foundation, HEC MBA and HEC Grande Ecole.


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