The HBS Gender Initiative was established at the beginning of the 2014-2015 academic year and publicly launched in May 2015. As part of their launch, the Initiative released new research from Professor Kathleen McGinn, which was covered in the New York Times. Professor McGinn and her co-authors found that having a working mother predicted positive outcomes later in life for both women and men—contrary to negative stereotypes about working moms. (See Professor McGinn speaking about the study in this video.) They also released new research from Gender Initiative faculty chair Robin Ely and the latest results from the Life and Leadership After HBS alumni study.

The Gender Initiative provides a mechanism for connecting multiple streams of research happening within the School and a platform for disseminating the knowledge and insights produced by HBS faculty.

What are the Gender Initiative’s goals?

Gender and other forms of inequality present pressing business challenges, and we bring the unique strengths of HBS as a research and teaching institution to bear on a range of related topics and problems. The Gender Initiative’s mission is to accelerate the advancement of women leaders and promote gender equity in business and society.

Importantly, though addressing the underrepresentation of women in leadership is a core concern, we understand our work to extend further. Gender shapes the lives of both women and men, and it intersects with other axes of inequality, such as race, ethnicity, class, sexual orientation, religion, age, and nationality. We take these interactions into account as we consider how gender affects all of our lives, livelihoods, and workplaces.

What events and resources do you offer?

The Gender Initiative supports a research agenda, course development, case-writing, and a learning community of business partners committed to advancing women leaders and promoting gender equity. One of our key areas of focus is facilitating and supporting a scholarly community, as well as developing mechanisms to bring actionable research to practice. The Initiative hosts a conference every spring, the Gender & Work Symposium, bringing together academics and practitioners to share research and ideas.

We are always developing new ways to share the insights from this and other events via video and print, as well as on social media. Many of these resources and publications can be found on our webpage. The Gender Initiative also leads major study of the career and life paths of HBS alumni, Life and Leadership After HBS.

What are the biggest challenges you face?

Despite widespread interest by companies in creating equitable workplaces, white women, and men and women of color, continue to be underrepresented in leadership roles. Unfortunately, much of the conventional wisdom about gender and other identity categories are rooted in stereotypes and other beliefs that are not supported by the evidence. As a result, even well-intentioned programs aimed at advancing inclusion within organizations do not achieve their goals—and in some cases, can even be counterproductive. Grounding the conversation about diversity in rigorous research is essential to moving forward and making meaningful progress in our organizations and society more broadly.

What do you hope prospective students know about the Gender Initiative?

The Gender Initiative is working toward a more equitable society for everyone, including HBS students and alumni. Through enhancing collective understanding of how gender and other axes of inequality affect individuals, teams, and organizations, we contribute to the School’s mission to educate leaders who make a difference in the world. The Gender Initiative encourages future, current, and former students alike to engage in a meaningful, research-based conversation about diversity and inclusion and to act as change agents in their own organizations and lives.