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The French higher education sector, in particular in the sphere of management, has undergone profound changes over the last ten years, turning it into a competitive market within which Grande Ecoles de Management (or business schools, BSs) are the key actors (Hawawini, 2005). French BSs are subject to strong competition that leads them to build effective differentiation strategies enabling them to take part in the race for European and international accreditation, and to secure their place in national and international rankings (Dameron & Durand, 2013; Menger et al., 2015). As organizations responsible for training the managers of the future, they are required by their stakeholders to reinforce their societal role in education and assume their responsibility in the face of today’s economic, environmental and social crises (Boyle, 2004; Godemann et al., 2014; Yanat & Bonnet, 2018). These business schools are expected to combat social exclusion and promote equal opportunities, in particular in France, where the renewal of “managerial elites” is an inevitable part of the ideal of a “republican meritocracy” (Bruna et al., 2016; Naschberger & Guerfel-Henda, 2016). In a demanding world of market stakes and societal questioning, French BSs are reinforcing their mission to act as educators and citizen builders. They provide a particularly interesting case study of “hybrid organizations” (Scott, 2001): operating in a market environment and driven by their mission and values, BSs must necessarily combine both economic and social objectives…


This article analyzes the diversity policies implemented by French business schools as part of their strategy and more specifically focuses on mid-ranking schools, which are strongly subject to challenges of competition and differentiation on their markets. We explore to what extent a diversity policy can be a solution to combine the economic and social rationales of these hybrid organizations. From an exploratory and qualitative study carried out with seven management Grandes Ecoles, we highlight how these business schools develop their diversity policies and combine multiple institutional rationales. Our results conclude on a variable adoption of diversity issues within the studied business schools and highlight that this adoption is largely dependent on the engagement of top management and governance of these issues. We show that for schools that have integrated diversity into their mission and strategy, successfully reconciling economic and social rationales involves reinforcing schools’ reputation and attractiveness, helping students to find meaning in their studies and fostering their professional integration. Two types of tension associated with combining these rationales also emerge from our investigation: tension between diversity and academic excellence on the one hand, and tension between diversity and economic profitability on the other hand.

  • diversity
  • diversity policy
  • French business schools
  • hybrid organizations
  • tensions

Entre mission et marché : La diversité, enjeu stratégique des grandes écoles de management françaises ?

Cet article propose d’analyser les politiques de diversité mises en place par les Grandes Ecoles de management (business schools) françaises dans une dimension stratégique et se focalise plus spécifiquement sur les écoles de milieu classement, fortement soumises à des enjeux de concurrence et de différentiation sur leurs marchés. Nous explorons dans quelle mesure une politique de diversité peut permettre de concilier les logiques économique et sociale de ces organisations hybrides. A partir d’une étude qualitative exploratoire réalisée auprès de sept Grandes Ecoles de management, nous mettons en évidence les orientations actuellement prises par les politiques de diversité des business schools et la manière dont ces politiques articulent des logiques institutionnelles multiples. Nos résultats concluent à une appropriation à géométrie variable par les business schools étudiées de la diversité et de ses enjeux associés qui dépendrait de l’engagement des dirigeants et de la gouvernance sur ces questions. Nous montrons que pour les écoles ayant intégré la diversité à leur mission et à leur stratégie, la réconciliation entre les logiques économique et sociale passe par le renforcement de la réputation et de l’attractivité de ces écoles, par la réponse à la recherche de sens des étudiants mais aussi à l’amélioration de l’insertion professionnelle de ces derniers. Deux tensions associées à la combinaison de ces logiques ressortent par ailleurs de nos cas : une tension entre la diversité et l’excellence académique, d’une part, et une tension entre la diversité et la rentabilité économique, d’autre part.

  • diversité
  • politique de diversité
  • Grandes Écoles de management françaises
  • organisations hybrides
  • tensions
Maryline Meyer
Maryline MEYER is a research lecturer at Montpellier Business School. Her research work at the Montpellier Recherche en Management (MRM) laboratory mainly centers on human resources management in companies involved in the social and solidarity economy, and on diversity policies and CSR pursued by not-for-profit organizations subject to market demands (business schools, wine-growing cooperatives, etc.). She is particularly interested in the management of tensions between economic and social approaches resulting from organizational hybridity.
Cédrine Joly
Cédrine JOLY is the director of the Grande Ecole Program, a research lecturer at Montpellier Business School, and a member of Montpellier en Recherche Management (MRM). After acting as marketing director for a large French group, she went on to obtain a doctorate in Management Science, and now pursues research on critical management approaches. She is interested in the connections between marketing and CSR, and diversity policies and CSR in higher education.
Mélanie Jaeck
Mélanie JAECK is a research lecturer at Montpellier Business School with a doctorate in economics. Her research work at the Montpellier Recherche en Management (MRM) laboratory looks at organizations that reconcile societal and economic missions, and the analysis of the associated paradoxes, at alternative circuits for marketing farm produce, and at the issues involved in implementing a strategic diversity policy.
Magalie Marais
Magalie MARAIS is a research lecturer accredited to supervise research (HDR) in management science at Montpellier Business School. Her research, training and consultancy activities center on corporate social responsibility (CSR), alternative organizations, and diversity. She is also a certified professional coach. Her work aims to put societal commitment and utility back at the heart of the strategies of companies and organizations.
Translated by
Anne-Marie Harper
This is the latest publication of the author on cairn.
This is the latest publication of the author on cairn.
This is the latest publication of the author on cairn.
This is the latest publication of the author on cairn.
This is the latest publication of the author on cairn.
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