This month we relaunched the #thinklist in a new format. Here the CBOS Leadership Team explains the rationale behind the change, and outlines what they hope to achieve with the list.

Since we launched the #thinklist in April 2016, we have been acutely aware that our ranking – especially at the top end – has been noticeably dominated by white men. So while we  sought to celebrate the responsible business faculty who were most effective in influencing debates on social media, we also wanted to spark a conversation about what this meant in terms of diversity and what role social media – and rankings such as the Thinklist – had in addressing or perpetuating inequalities in our field and in our academic careers.

However, there comes a time when conversation is not enough. After the tumultuous events of 2020, from COVID-19 to Black Lives Matter, we recognized that we had to stop being part of the problem. Rather than reproducing inequalities with the #thinklist, we had to find ways to address them.

There is no simple answer to this problem. Inequalities are everywhere in and around academia – gender, race, class, sexual orientation, language and age are just some of the many ways that people are advantaged or disadvantaged in our profession. But we do think we can do better. And so, to mark a change of thinking about the #thinklist, we are no longer going to rank, and we are going to focus on people and issues that we believe are important to highlight and whose voices we need to amplify.

We begin then with our women-only #thinklist30. The differential effects of the COVID-19 lockdowns across the world on women have been increasingly recognised. In academia, there is considerable evidence that women scholars have disproportionately experienced reductions in their productivity compared with men, likely due to greater caregiving responsibilities at home, and teaching and administration responsibilities at work. Such inequalities are likely to have been further reflected in social media use, with women suddenly charged with additional childcare, eldercare, and the need to manage a huge transition to online learning finding little time or inclination to actively participate on social media.

So, what better time than now to recognise and amplify the voice of women in our field on social media? There are, of course, so many amazing and impactful women scholars in responsible business. We have tried to collate as many of them as we could on our Women B-School faculty Twitter list, which now numbers some 125 members. But the #thinklist30 are those that have inspired us the most. They are not selected by an algorithm, but by human beings - three people stuck away in our home offices at the University of Bath. Unlike in previous #thinklist rankings, we are not claiming they are the most influential in any objective way. But in our considered opinion these are – for one reason or another – 30 female b-school faculty you should be sure to follow.

All of our #thinklist30 are faculty members in business schools who comment on responsible business issues. Some are already huge influencers. Others are just starting out. Some focus broadly on responsible business, while others engage more specifically on topics such as diversity, social investment, corporate governance, sustainability accounting, or responsible supply chains. Many of them have been active in discussions about inclusion and equality, especially during 2020. Some, however, may have gone quieter than usual due to the new normal we are all having to get used to. But all of them, we believe, are worthy of our attention.

We should be clear that we are not stopping here. Our women-only #thinklist30 is going to be the first of many dedicated #thinklists that we will be releasing from now on. We will no doubt do updated women-only lists in the future, but we also plan on focusing on all kinds of other people and issues too. Our next list in November will focus on race, and will be mixed-gender. We will likely follow that with lists focusing on PhD students and early career scholars, on scholars outside of business schools, and those in languages others than English and on platforms other than Twitter. In fact, wherever we see responsible business scholars in need of amplification, we will look at how we can develop a new dedicated list. To help us do this, and to broaden our perspectives, we will be inviting guest #thinklist curators to join us along the way.

Our rethink of the #thinklist is certainly not a perfect solution. Obviously, some will think a women's list is itself exclusionary while others will want a clearer indication of who gets to be included in the category of “women”.  Many other such problems will arise with our subsequent lists. We realize we still have a lot of learning and refining to do. But we hope at least that it begins to push us in a better, more equitable direction. As the #thinklist evolves and refines, we hope to create lists that are even more inclusive and representative of our society as a whole. If you have any suggestions about how we can make the #thinklist more inclusive, please let us know.

Posted in: #thinklist, Business and society, Social media

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