“Harvard Business School Case Study: Gender Equity” by Jodi Kantor, New York Times, Sept. 8, 2013, Brent McDonald and Hannah Fairfield contributed reporting.
“Someone made the decision for me that I’m not pretty or wealthy enough to be in Section X, she told her classmates, her voice breaking…The discussion broke the ice, just not on the topic the deans had intended. Until then, no one else had publicly said ‘Section X’…The room jumped to life…Maybe it was because class was easier to talk about than gender, or maybe it was because class was the bigger divide — at the school and in the country.”
Historically women entered HBS with the same academic achievement as men and then fell behind. “You weren’t supposed to talk about it in open company,” said Kathleen L. McGinn, a professor who supervised a student study that revealed the grade gap. “It was a dirty secret that wasn’t discussed.”
The school’s first female President decided to do something about it. As a result of changes implemented in 2010 an administrator said, “We made progress on the first-level things, but what it’s permitting us to do is see, holy cow, how deep-seated the rest of this is.” New issues and “unintended consequences” emerged. Women caught up and excelled academically faster than expected, “but they were not ‘touching the money,’ as Nori Gerardo Lietz, a real estate private equity investor and faculty member, put it.” One student related, “that she and some other women never heard about many of the most lucrative jobs because the men traded contacts and tips among themselves.”
It is not my intention to write a ‘CliffsNotes’ version of this article. I want to make you curious enough to read it for yourself. Some of the insights in the case study are revealing; others are surprising; they are all timely for our study of women in the media. Here is the link to the full article: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/08/education/harvard-case-study-gender-equity.html?ref=education
The article named Sheryl Sandberg as an example of a female student who “sailed through” Harvard Business School. She is Chief Operating Officer at Facebook, an author, and a TED Talk veteran. She seems to be the exception to gender inequality. How relevant can her experience be? She is exceptional but she is not immune to gender stereotypes. Her book, Lean In, is full of “aha” moments. Here is one from page 40:
“Our stereotype of men holds that they are providers, decisive, and driven. Our stereotype of women holds that they are caregivers, sensitive, and communal. Because we characterize men and women in opposition to each other, professional achievement and all traits associated with it get placed in the male column. By focusing on her career and taking a calculated approach to amassing power, Heidi violated our stereotypical expectations of women. Yet by behaving in the exact same manner, Howard lived up to our stereotypical expectations of men. The end result? Liked him, disliked her.
I believe this bias is at the very core of why women are held back. It is also at the very core of why women hold themselves back. For men professional success comes with positive reinforcement at every step of the way. For women, even when they’re recognized for their achievements, they’re often regarded unfavorably.”
And on page 49, to illustrate her point that successful women are seen as having male characteristics, she uses a story in San Francisco magazine that superimposed the heads of female entrepreneurs on male bodies.
You can see Sheryl Sandberg’s Ted Talk at this link: