Gender Equality

September 16, 2013 in Research by Liz McKenna

How do you change America’s oldest educational institution? A recent New York Times story about gender and education at Harvard Business School provides an account of the efforts and leadership it took to do so.

Year after year, women arrived at Harvard Business School with the same test scores and grades as men, but soon fell behind in classroom performance. In a recent graduation speech, a student speaker alluded to the frustrations women felt about being ignored, harassed, or worse during their time at the school. As she spoke, her classmates considered their experiences and, as the Times story reports, thought “what if Harvard changed its curriculum and rules to foster female success? Other women wondered about their priorities: should I be a student? Should I be professional? Or should I be looking to date someone?”

As students questioned the curriculum, and the sexism apparent within the programs, leaders at the Harvard Business School embarked on a plan for change. Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust appointed a new dean who took on the challenge. The school installed stenographers to guard against biased grading, provided coaching for untenured female professors, and ultimately changed the way the school operated at many levels. Professor Frances Frei, who was popular in the community argued, “[w]e have to lead the way, and then lead the world in doing it.”

Harvard Business School might not be a setting that jumps to mind when you think about organizing, but this article presents an interesting case study of leadership and change enacted by professors, administrators, and students. These efforts not only had an impact on the school, but also the community. It’s worth reading and reflecting on.

The article is posted here: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/08/education/harvard-case-study-gender-equity.html?emc=eta1&_r=0