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Diversity in the Thinkers50 Hall of Fame

By Stuart Crainer and Des Dearlove

On September 18 2020, we announced the new inductees into the Thinkers50 Hall of Fame, which celebrates the people whose work established the foundations of modern management. The six new inductees included the first African American to be included in the Hall of Fame as well as the first New Zealander, an Italian-American and another whose background includes Burma, Hong Kong and the UK.

The Hall of Fame is a global group. It encompasses two Japanese thinkers, a number of Europeans, a group of Indian-born thinkers, plus a dominant group of thinkers from the leading US business schools. Of the 38 members of the group only three are women. This was a point highlighted by Thinkers50 co-founder Stuart Crainer in his announcement of the new members. Each time we have announced the new inductees of the Hall of Fame — which we do annually — we have noted the lack of women and explained the reasons for it.

The Hall of Fame is backward looking. It celebrates those who have made a historical contribution to management thinking. The reality is that, no matter how much we might wish it were other, the foundational management thinkers in the twentieth century were largely men. Men dominated the upper echelons of corporations and the faculty of business schools. Books about business were almost exclusively written by men.

Thankfully, over time this is changing. More women will join the Hall of Fame going forwards because management thinking is now more diverse than ever before. Our ranking of the world’s leading management thinkers is topped by a Korean man and an American woman. There are more women on the Thinkers50 list than ever before — not yet 50 per cent but we hope that will soon be achieved. Our Thinkers50 awards are similarly diverse in terms of the origins and gender of the winners and those shortlisted. Every year we publish the Thinkers50 Radar list of upcoming management thinkers. Interestingly, this now has a majority of women.

Since the annual Hall of Fame announcement there have been comments on social media about its gender imbalance. Some of the comments come from professors at business schools. They might like to consider how many of their school’s emeritus professors are women. The answer is often zero. Thirty or forty years ago, women did not become business school professors. But does that mean we should ignore the work of their male colleagues? Similarly, if you were asked to name the four best American presidents the answer would not reflect current demands for diversity. History can not be re-written though, of course, it can be re-evaluated and seen through different lenses.

Ironically, one of the reasons we invented the Hall of Fame was to create a means of acknowledging the work of significant management thinkers while removing them from our ranking to enable us to further the diversity of the Thinkers50. We have made progress. The latest Thinkers50 ranking is the most diverse we have ever published.

Now, clearly work still needs to be done. We are always open to suggestions. In February of this year, Tiffani Bova from Salesforce alerted us to an article about the African American business thinker and practitioner Charles Clinton Spaulding. We were intrigued and hugely impressed by Spaulding’s work. He joined the Hall of Fame this month.

If there are important management thinkers from the past whose work we should highlight we are delighted to do so. New thinkers are inducted into the Hall of Fame every year. We welcome suggestions, ideas and proposals from everyone in the Thinkers50 community and beyond.

Stuart Crainer and Des Dearlove
Thinkers50 Founders

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