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Monday, February 10, 2014
Apologies for Sexism in Business School-All Talk?
This week something rather significant came out of the mouth of the Dean at Harvard Business School (HBS). While speaking at an event entitled "50 Years of Women at HBS", Nitin Nohria was quoted as saying to the women in the audience "I'm sorry on behalf of the business school. The school owed you better, and I promise it will be better".

A discussion of the under representation of women in business school is nothing new. None of the top campuses in the U.S. have gender parity in enrollment. The numbers are getting better-even at Harvard, women now make up around 41% of the student body. The problem is that the slight improvement in numbers isn't playing out in the real world. At least not yet.

According to, the percentage of female CEOs in Fortune 500 and Fortune 1000 companies in 2013 was 4.6%. That is woeful. Nationally, the number of female CEOs in all companies is around 20%. This is true even though women comprise over 56% of the labor force.

Naturally, there are a variety of reasons for some of the numbers, not the least of which is having children. Women are far more likely than men to leave the workforce-temporarily or permanently-in order to raise families. They thus fall off the promotion treadmill and find it difficult or impossible to catch up.

Still, with women comprising around 50% of students in undergraduate education, professional schools still have a great deal to answer for. At HBS, Nohria promised some practical changes, such as adding more women to case studies. Many business schools also offer mentoring and networking support for women.

Whether or not Nohria's words will have any weight, remains to be seen. Most change moves at a snail's pace, but at least he's saying the right thing to the right crowd.


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