Gendered Standards: Achieving Gender Equity at Harvard Business School

Tina Nguyen

Abstract


Harvard Business School (HBS), one of the top business schools in the world and the standard bearer for American business, has a gender problem. Female students, often having graduated from elite institutions at the top of their class, were falling behind in the classroom and receiving less awards and honors than their male counterparts. Furthermore, HBS was struggling to retain highly qualified female faculty members who were not put on tenure track positions nearly as often as their male colleagues. Female faculty members often left HBS having faced harassment and harsh judgment from their students while they were there. Under Drew Gilpin Faust, Harvard’s first female President, and a new dean at the business school, Nitin Nohria, HBS set out to understand the causes of this gender disparity. In 2011, HBS worked to restructure their program by evaluating their grading policy, investing in stenographers and upgrading their curriculum. However, the school could not have anticipated the effect that the student’s social culture had on their performance in the classroom. Faculty had to decide when and where social intervention was appropriate in their curriculum, and whether or not this type of education would benefit them in the real business world.

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