10 Mar 2015
Harvard Business School Commemorates International Women’s Day

In 2012, Harvard Business School celebrated the 50th anniversary of women’s admission to the two-year MBA program.

Partly to honor that event, Professor Boris Groysberg wrote a case that chronicles the successes and challenges women MBAs faced during those first 50 years. Today, Groysberg teaches the case in a second-year elective course called “How Star Women Succeed: Leading Effective Careers and Organizations.” While looking back at the School’s history, both the case and the course are as much or more about the future of gender equality issues and how students will encounter and be able to positively impact them at the School and throughout their careers.

With accomplished alumnae like Meg Whitman (MBA 1979), head of Hewlett-Packard, and Abigail Johnson (MBA 1988), president and CEO of Fidelity Investments, Harvard Business School can claim success in educating female leaders who have made and continue to make a difference in the world. But the mission, according to faculty, students, and Dean Nitin Nohria, has only just begun.

“Not a single day goes by where I do not ask what we could be doing better in terms of gender equality,” Nohria said in remarks to Groysberg’s class on Monday, March 9. “We can never be satisfied. And I hope you all wake up and ask yourselves the same question. Unless you’re asking it, and unless you’re taking these questions and lessons out into your careers and the world with you, we cannot hope to get better. You are the key to the significance and the velocity of positive change.”

Nohria addressed the class in recognition of its importance and proximity to International Women’s Day on March 8. That day of appreciation, started just after the turn of the 20th century, is meant to respect and honor women’s contributions to society and champion their economic, political, and social rights and roles. Sheryl Sandberg (MBA 1995), the chief operating office of Facebook, commemorated the occasion by asking men and women to share photos and sentiments on her site LeanIn.org and use the hashtag #LeanInTogether to recognize friends and relatives who consistently stand up for and support gender equality issues. The International Women’s Day website and hashtag host a similar outpouring of support.

Nohria closed by saying he hopes the HBS community will continue to lay the foundation and advance the dialogue of gender equality as well as accelerate the pace of positive change.

“Know that we don’t sit here and pat ourselves on the back for what we have done already,” Nohria said. “Rather, we are always looking forward to what more can be done. We need you to own the issue while you are here and own it after you leave. And though it is a tough emotional journey, it is more important now than ever.”

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