Hands up for responsible leadership

Priya Sharma

Hands up for responsible leadership

How can students become responsible leaders, when asking questions isn’t the cultural norm? Monash University Malaysia School of Business corporate governance educator, Priya Sharma often asks herself this.

Monash Business School is a signatory to the Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME), a commitment to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

After a reform in Malaysia requiring large company boards to comprise at least 30 percent women, Ms Sharma asked students to research and debate the success of women directors in Malaysia.

Adjudicated by the Monash Association of Debaters, the debate attracted academics from different disciplines and a female director from global consultancy firm Deloitte as keynote speaker.

It also received international recognition. In September 2020, it was chosen as a best-practice strategy for universities in the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network guide.

“I want students to develop their higher order thinking, to be critical and ask the right questions,” Ms Sharma says.

In the capstone unit she developed, Ethics and sustainability in a business environment, students presented real-world case studies on SDG issues and critiqued each other online, which she says got “quite lively”.

Building on her research into the trafficking of migrant workers into forced labour in Malaysia, students also worked with the NGO Project Liber8, which resulted in two video campaigns being featured on its blog.

This unit also earned Ms Sharma the Monash University’s Purple Letter for Teaching Excellence, which evaluates teaching performance as ‘outstanding’.

One benefit of working from home in 2020 has been time to organise high-profile guest speakers. Her Responsible Education Virtual Series featured Dr Puvan Selvanathan, former UN Special Rapporteur on Business and Human Rights in Geneva; Professor Mette Morsing, Head of the UN PRME; Monash Business School alumni; and a representative from the UN's Office of the Secretary General's Envoy on Youth.

The virtual series yielded opportunities for internships, mentoring, further study and practical ways for students to embed the SDGs into their own businesses.

“Our students value learning ethics and sustainability and they are future leaders, consumers and policymakers, which is why I try to raise awareness of responsible management education whenever I can,” she says.

For her work in sustainable education innovation in a virtual environment, Ms Sharma was awarded a Monash Business School 2020 Dean’s PRME Award for Education Excellence.