Consultant in Diversity, Inclusion, HR and Marketing
Master of Business in Management
As a consultant in the area of diversity and inclusion, Heidi Rosser had long been interested in the role boards and senior management play in promoting diversity across an organisation. For her Master of Business, she explored how male directors of New Zealand’s listed companies explained the low number of women on their boards.
“It had become apparent to me that no matter how much effort managers put into improving diversity and inclusion, board-level commitment – gender-related or otherwise – was essential to drive a step-change. Based on existing processes and their predominance, male directors are the primary ‘gate-keepers’ to board appointments. In order to build a case to gain their commitment to improving diversity and inclusion in their organisations from the top down, first it was essential to understand what they were thinking.”
Her research fills a gap in knowledge about women on boards, offering a unique domestic perspective and providing a rare local resource for large domestic businesses, says Heidi who will be graduating with first-class honours this August.
“The findings from my research have the potential to be used to address a current business issue. Directors can reflect on the findings and consider how they might improve their own and their board’s practices to increase the proportion of women on boards at a faster pace. Change agents can leverage the explanation themes to inform the development of local material and programmes tailored to chairs and directors of listed companies, and other key audiences to achieve the same end.”
Heidi’s Master of Business research was supervised by Dr Irene Ryan from the AUT Business School.
An academic lens on business challenges
Postgraduate study allowed her to investigate a question relevant to her work, says Heidi who plans to go back to consulting work in diversity and inclusion when she graduates.
“Choosing a Master of Business enabled me to balance academic rigour with an applied business approach, and to use the outcome. Of the universities that I considered at the outset of my academic journey in 2016, both in New Zealand and Australia, I felt that AUT’s postgraduate business papers had the most current content, addressing areas like diversity and inclusion, entrepreneurship and sustainability.”
For Heidi, applying academic thinking to business challenges was both inspiring and challenging at the same time.
“I most enjoyed learning how to harness academic rigour for business purposes. I also found this the biggest challenge – initially, my business-oriented self struggled to appreciate a multiple page journal article full of academic terminology that I felt could have been condensed into a couple of pages of plain English.”
Advice for other students
Make the most of the resources available to you, Heidi advises other students considering postgraduate study.
“My advice would be to make good use of AUT’s excellent free workshops on all manner of really useful topics, including thematic analysis, designing ethical research and formatting your thesis.”
She would highly recommend postgraduate study to people who are in senior management or consulting roles.
“It will deeply connect you to valuable current research at its source, and hopefully provide inspiration for the next stretch of your career. It will also add academic credibility to your hard-won business experience.”