Earlier this week at an alumnae event in Northern California celebrating 50 years of women at Harvard Business School, dean Nitin Nohria used the opportunity to issue an apology to female students and professors past and present for any sexist or offensive behavior they experienced at the revered business school.
Nohria told those in attendance that he knew that female students at Harvard have felt “disrespected, left out, and unloved by the school” at times. “I’m sorry on behalf of the business school,” he told the audience. “The school owed you better, and I promise it will be better.”
One aspect Nohria intends to improve is the number of female protagonists in Harvard case studies from its current 9% to 20% over the next five years. According to John A. Byrne in CNN Money, Harvard-produced case studies make up about 80% of the cases studied at MBA programs around the globe, so this increase, though perhaps viewed as not ambitious enough, would have a considerable ripple effect on the way the majority of graduates view the business world.
Reaction to the apology is mixed, and Slate assistant editor Katy Walden isn’t overly impressed by Nohria’s promises. “This whole mea culpa smacks of gesture and performance: Nohria’s one concrete vow, to teach woman-centered case studies one-fifth of the time, feels underwhelming in a world where we make up one-half of the population,” Walden writes.
Nohria’s remarks may just be a delayed reaction to the New York Times front page story in September on gender equality, or lack thereof, at Harvard Business School. Even so, inclusion measures initiated by the dean with the HBS Class of 2013 have delivered on their promise of improving gender equality. The subject will surely generate future debate, and we’ll be sharing it with our readers here.
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