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SFU Beedie professors land Insight Development Grants for new approaches to research

Nov 09, 2021

Fake Dictionary, definition of the word research.

SFU Beedie Professors Peng Zhang and Fereshteh Mahmoudian have each been selected to receive an Insight Development Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC). The grants are awarded to enable new research questions and help build knowledge and understanding about people, societies and the world –specifically aimed to support new research approaches on complex topics.

Peng Zhang

Professor Zhang will study how the top management teams’ ethnic diversity affects the performance of South African firms and their foreign subsidiaries elsewhere in Africa. In addition to racial diversity, the project emphasizes cultural diversity within the black population (e.g. Xhosa, Zulu, Swazi, etc.) — a feature of Sub-Saharan Africa.

Zhang’s study is novel in that it will investigate the benefit of ethnic diversity in a setting where western views of diversity, which previous research focused on, may not apply. She hopes the study will contribute to public discussions on sustainable business development and how corporations can benefit from embracing diversity when hiring and promoting.

Fereshteh Mahmoudian

Professor Mahmoudian’s research combines the Big 5 and Upper Echelon theories to assess the effects of a CEO’s personality traits on the firm’s environmental, social and economic performance. The study will shed light on how the executive team — lead by the CEO, CFO, and the board of directors — predicts various aspects of the business’s performance, specifically corporate social responsibility (CSR).

For this study she will use IBM’s Watson personality insight software to measure the executive team’s personality traits, using from conference call transcripts, then analyze the effects of those traits on the economic and CSR performance of the organization.

This study marks the first time that personality theories will be merged with CSR and strategic management fields to investigate the effects that board structure and the executive team’s personality traits have on CSR performance.