On March 5th, Santiago Iñiguez, Executive President of IE University, presented his latest book In an Ideal Business. How The Ideas of 10 Female Philosophers Bring Value to The Workplace. The book aims at exploring how philosophy can be applied in the business world by relating the ideas of those female philosophers with 10 female executives.
The event, held as part of IE Women’s Week, was also an opportunity to meet two of those female leaders: María Benjumea, Founder & CEO of Spain Startup – South Summit, and Michelle Raymond, IE Alumna and Diversity and Inclusion Consultant. Mª José Ferrari, Academic Head of the Arts and Humanities Division at IE University, joined them for the session, which was moderated by Celia de Anca, Director of the IE Center for Diversity in Global Management.
“Management is philosophy in action”, says Santiago. However, philosophy is the only humanities field in which women are still underrepresented. Even in the most inclusive universities, less than 27% of senior academic positions in philosophy departments are held by women.
Fortunately, this is slowly changing. In the last years, philosophical works written by women have entered our cultural tradition. “However, it is not enough to include a female author just for the sake of including a woman”, notes Mª José Ferrari. “Female philosophy raises new topics, such as caring or intimacy, that are relevant not only to women, but to men too. As such, it must be introduced into culture in conversation with male philosophers, tradition and society”.
According to Mª José, for whom Santiago is the father of IE’s humanistic approach, works like In an Ideal Business are key for establishing that dialogue, as well as for the introduction of humanities into education. “Nowadays we all need to be trained to solve extremely complex problems”, she says. “What humanities give us is not the solution to the problem, but a way to face it. They allow us to contextualize reality and to understand the ethical consequences of our behaviors”.
In this line, María Benjumea, whose academic background is indeed humanistic, points out that in the last years, it is more and more evident that amazing managers and projects can arise from humanities. However, a Geography and History graduate herself, she recognizes that throughout her career she has missed some specialized business training. “Humanities can take you through many interesting and different paths, but, in the business world, it is key to potentiate your general academic background with complementary training that allows you to develop your enterprise professionally”.
For Michelle Raymond, finding that balance between arts and business has yielded a competitive advantage. For quite some time, she was able to combine her two passions, music and business, working at Morgan Stanley and performing at a musical at night. “Being in both worlds was incredible. I have skillsets that come from being an artist that have helped me tremendously in business, for example in delivering presentations that were no longer boring. On the other side, I got to manage my own artistic career”.
Besides the revindaction of women philosophers, In an Ideal Business is a book that also tries to introduce female role models in the management world. Only 11% of Harvard Business Review’s case studies have women as protagonists, and most of them are about breaking the glass ceiling. “I realized there was a lack of examples of women in business”, says Santiago. “I believe María, Michelle, and all the women included in the book can serve as inspiration for the many other women interested in management”.
“Having female referents is important for women, men, girls and boys to realize that ‘women’ and ‘management’ or ‘philosophy’ are not incompatible”, agrees Mª José. This will lead to the ‘positive liberty’ coined by Isaiah Berlin: now that us women have the right to be anything we want to be, we need to believe we are able to achieve it. In this sense, María Benjumea feels lucky to live in a moment in which women can access every opportunity: “we now need to be convinced that developing our careers to the maximum is worth it”.
Mentors are crucial for realizing that potential. As María says, intergenerational relationships pose an incredible opportunity for women of all ages to continue facing challenges together. For Michelle, meeting Felicia Appenteg (President of IE Africa Centre) changed her world. “My passion for diversity was born in IE”, she says. “I had been involved in LGTB groups for many years before, but I had never thought of it as a career, until she convinced me to take that path and become a diversity consultant”. Currently, Michelle is being mentored by Yvette Noel Schure, Beyoncé’s publicist, which allows her to merge her two passions in one.
That passion, that love for their work that underlies everything María and Michelle do, is indeed one of the ideas of female philosophers that can be applied to the business world. English philosopher Iris Murdoch talks about love as the only way to truly get to know something or someone. “In business, this means that the best way to manage a team is loving its members. Only then we will understand their aspirations and objectives, both in life and at work”, says Santiago. For María, loving the project that she is developing is key for it to be successful: “when you are convinced and love what you do, you enjoy a lot more and achieve better results”, she assures.
While writing In an Ideal Business, Santiago also reflected on the role of business schools in this issue. He concluded that, more than just describe the current reality, the role of business schools should be normative. IE Business School is 10 points ahead any other business school of our cluster in female faculty members, which represent +40%. With diversity as one of our pillars, “we must talk about the changes that need to take place within companies in order to guarantee higher inclusion, promotion of women, etc.”, says Santiago. “It is our role to show companies how the reality of the future should look like”.