Harvard business dean apologizes for sexism on campus

In a rather remarkable admission, the dean of the Harvard Business School apologized for the way the school has treated female students and teachers over its 50-year-old history and promised to remedy the problem.


According to Poets & Quants, Business School Dean Nitin Nohria was speaking at a gala titled “50 Years of Women at HBS” hosted by the Harvard Business School Association of Northern California early this week and acknowledged that women sometimes felt “disrespected, left out, and unloved by the school.” He further said:

I’m sorry on behalf of the business school. The school owed you better, and I promise it will be better.

He said that one way he would try to improve things is by increasing the percentage of case studies created at Harvard Business School that feature women. He also said the school would help connect female students with alumni and help women to find places on boards of trustees.

According to the Harvard Crimson, the student newspaper,  “nine to 10 percent of case studies developed and disseminated by the Business School—which produces more than 80 percent of cases sold globally—feature women as decision makers in an organization. By contrast, 41 percent of the MBA Class of 2015 are women.” It said the Harvard Business School has had trouble recruiting and keeping female professors.

Nohria’s comments didn’t come out of thin air; last September, the New York Times wrote extensively about the school’s problems with gender inequality, which sparked a debate among business schools that have historically been, and remain, dominated by men.

The book “Gender in Organizations” notes that:

“The under-representation of women in business schools is widely acknowledged. The top ten schools of the Financial Times (FT) MBA ranking 2013 have on average 34 per cent women in their MBA classes (Financial Times, 2013). Business schools are in consequence an ideal place to change the male domination of business. However, rather than challenging the male dominance of business, business schools seem to be a reflection of current business. For change to happen in business schools it is important to look beyond the confines of numerical representation of women in business schools and instead focus on practices that maintain gender inequalities in business schools and those that can potentially destabilize it. Research on the changing nature of gender inequality has indicated that gender is increasingly becoming unspeakable (Gill, 2013). The unspeakability of gender inequality means that gender is often acknowledged but not seen as important any more.”

 

Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.
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Valerie Strauss | February 1