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
research from Gender Initiative faculty chair Robin Ely and the latest
results from the Life and Leadership After HBS alumni
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
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.