'Diversity' is something of a dirty word, often associated with political correctness and quotas in the mainstream media, but for Leadership, Work & Organisation Lecturer Dr Doirean Wilson, it's something that is absolutely crucial for the health of a business.
"Businesses need to survive by being competitive and sustainable," she explains.
"As HR guru Michael Armstrong said, people are a key resource in an organisation, so if they're not happy they are less likely to perform well. Plus, we live in a global world that is becoming more heterogeneous and we've got to learn to work with others of difference."
Evidently, diversity is crucial for business success, but just what does it mean for business leaders?
"The real diversity is beyond a tick-box exercise," Dr Wilson says. "It's about practice – being aware of your employees to ensure that policies and procedures reflect that audience, are inclusive and nurture equality."
This message will be at the heart of the forthcoming conference on diversity the Business School is hosting at Middlesex University in partnership with Winmark and supported by Wragge Lawrence Graham & Co. The one-day event on 23 September is attracting some of the biggest names from the world of business, including representatives from Credit Agricole, the CIPD and the Bar Council.
It is also hoped that Malala Yousafzai, the young girl shot by the Taliban for promoting education for women in Pakistan, will join a star-studded guest list that already includes Richard Taylor OBE, the father of Damilola Taylor, and HRH Princess Katerina of Yugoslavia.
Throughout the day keynote speeches and workshops will be taking place, alongside which Middlesex students will have the chance to promote their 'diversity toolkits' to industry professionals, which were created as part of Dr Wilson's 'Equality, Diversity and Inclusion' final-year undergraduate module.
Students, working in multicultural teams, identified a particular company or sector and set out to create a toolkit that meets the specific needs of their chosen area. The results were judged by a panel of senior business figures and the winning entries are those that will be on display at the conference.
"These toolkits are practical, informative, draw on current data and have quizzes to allow you to check your own knowledge," explains Dr Wilson, who has created her own toolkit on nurturing respect for the event.
Other Middlesex academics involved in the conference include Professor of Organisation Behaviour Nick Rumens, who will be speaking on the role of the academic community in educating diversity.
"The role of academics is crucial for promoting awareness and understanding of diversity beyond the rhetoric," says Dr Wilson.
"We need to work even more closely with the world of work to enable organisations to make use of our research in practice."
One person in particular who has straddled the boundary between the spheres of academia and work is Middlesex Professor of Journalism Kurt Barling, who was a reporter for the BBC for 25 years until he left in March 2014. During the event, he will be presenting the business case for diversity in the digital media economy, drawing on his extensive experience to provide a real-world view.
The diverse backgrounds of Middlesex's academics, such as Kurt, Doirean and Nick, is one of the reasons why the University is such a fitting host for a conference on diversity.
"Middlesex is known to be the most diverse university in the UK," says Dr Wilson, proudly.
"Firstly, there isn't a part of the world that isn't represented among our student body. Secondly, Middlesex was recently ranked fourth for employability. That says everything you need to know about the University. We might be all speaking the same language, but we come from different dynamics, and that makes what we do very robust."
The Diversity Conference takes place on 23 September 2014, from 9.00am until 8.00pm.
To find out more and register your attendance visit: https://www.mdx.ac.uk/events/2014/09/diversity-conference