As students came back to campus this fall, they encountered a new experience: On September 9, Columbia Business School hosted TEDxColumbiaUniversity — Excellence Through Equity, its first-ever TEDx event. The sessions covered vital topics such as inspiring leadership, transformative change, effective strategies to address biases, and ways to develop a deeper understanding of authenticity and imposter syndrome. Together, faculty, students, and thought leaders from across academia, business, and policy gathered in Manhattanville to examine how equity in organizations propels all of us higher.

Decades of Work Toward Equity

While TEDx may be new this year, the commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) has long been a part of the School. Earlier this year, CBS launched 100/50: Embracing Our Legacy. a yearlong celebration to honor both the 100th anniversary of Theodora Fonteneau Rutherford ’24 as the first matriculated Black student and the 50th anniversary of the School’s first affinity group, the Black Business Students Association.

The commitment to DEI values reaches far beyond events, with relevant research, curricular enhancement, community connections, and more. With the aim of instilling DEI awareness while educating the next generation of business leaders, CBS founded the Phillips Pathway for Inclusive Leadership, a cocurricular program to help students develop the skills and strategies to lead in an inclusive and ethical manner in any industry. CBS has also identified and developed course materials and cases that can improve DEI conversations in the classroom.

At the same time, CBS faculty have been producing thought-provoking research that helps move DEI forward. Notable work includes “Diversity thresholds: How social norms, visibility, and scrutiny relate to group composition” by Professor Modupe Akinola, faculty director of the Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. Center for Leadership and Ethics at CBS, and “Maximizing the gains and minimizing the pains of diversity: A policy perspective,” led by Professor Adam Galinsky, vice dean for DEI.

The work continues as CBS professors delve into more research to advance our understanding of DEI issues and opportunities. Recent studies include: 

Hiding data on a lack of diversity: In the study “Behind the EEO Curtain,” Professor Thomas Bourveau analyzed Equal Opportunity Employment data from 3,000 publicly traded companies to pull back the curtain on corporate diversity, discovering a significant lack of diversity in managerial roles. He also found that companies that lag in their diversity efforts largely keep that information from the public, making it extremely difficult for investors to make informed decisions about their investments. His research can give investors the fuel they need to call for greater transparency.

Professor Adam Galinsky
Professor Adam Galinsky speaks at the TEDx event.

Trickle-down diversity but not equal pay: In the study ““Do Diverse Directors Influence DEI Outcomes? Professor Wei Cai looked at the effects of board representation to ask the question: Is there such a thing as trickle-down diversity? Her analysis found that when board diversity increases, underrepresented groups are hired at higher rates at both the manager and staff level. But the research revealed that there’s still work to do when it comes to equity and equal pay.

Cai was among the presenters at the CBS TEDx event, sharing her expertise in organizational structures. The event featured sessions on a range of other topics, such as:

  • Inspire: The Universal Path for Transforming Yourself and Others, with Adam Galinsky, vice dean of DEI at CBS
  • Strategy and Excellence, a talk about extrapolating learnings from a card game to combat imposter syndrome and insecurity, presented by PhD candidate Genevieve (Vivi) Gregorich
  • Becoming an Ally to All, a discussion about the promise of meeting inequity everywhere it occurs, presented by Kenji Yoshino, the Chief Justice Earl Warren Professor of Constitutional Law and director of the Meltzer Center for Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging at New York University

By bringing together researchers, practitioners, and leading voices on DEI, both from within CBS and the larger community of professionals and people sharing experiences, the TEDx sessions aimed to expand the understanding of varied perspectives. Compelling stories, like Maeve DuVally’s transgender transition while a managing director at Goldman Sachs, can elevate important thinking and encourage acceptance. In advance of her TEDxColumbiaUniversity presentation about her sobriety and transition, DuVally shared this thought: “Anything worth striving for is ultimately unachievable in totality, but the nobility of striving and approaching the ideal gives meaning.”


In this webinar, William M. Klepper, PhD and adjunct professor of management at CBS, discusses the importance of inclusion to empower both leaders and teams, shares insight on his integrated leadership model, and provides listeners with ideas to achieve high performance: