18 May 2015

Harvard Business School Launches Gender Initiative

New Multifaceted Effort Seeks To Accelerate Progress of Women Leaders

BOSTON—In an effort to further the advancement of women leaders worldwide, Harvard Business School (HBS) has launched the Gender Initiative to support research, teaching, and knowledge dissemination that promotes gender equity in business and society. The new Initiative will be headed by Robin Ely, the School’s Diane Doerge Wilson Professor of Business Administration and Senior Associate Dean for Culture and Community.

Inspiration for the Gender Initiative emerged during the 2013 commemoration of the School's 50th anniversary of admitting women to its two-year MBA program. As part of that celebration, HBS hosted its first Gender & Work Symposium, an annual gathering of top gender researchers and practitioners.

Robin Ely
Photo: Harvard Business School

“One of the main goals Harvard Business School wants to achieve with the Gender Initiative is to ground discussions about gender in rigorous research so that people can make better-informed decisions for themselves, their families, their companies, and their communities,” Ely said. “So much of what people think they know about gender is simply not substantiated by empirical evidence but instead is based on gender stereotypes. We want to develop the Initiative so that Harvard Business School becomes the ‘go-to place’ on gender issues, where both researchers and practitioners can come together to find ways to advance gender equity in the workplace and help both women and men lead whole, fulfilled, and sustainable lives.”

To achieve its mission, the HBS Gender Initiative will:

Serve as a catalyst to advance knowledge about gender and work through cutting-edge research, case writing, course development, and conferences.

Recognize that gender intersects with other axes of inequality, such as race, ethnicity, class, sexual orientation, religion, age, and nationality.

Help expand women's opportunities and competencies to lead and make a difference in the world as well as challenge discrimination, stereotypes, implicit biases, and power disparities that limit both men’s and women’s ability to thrive.

Facilitate cross-fertilization of ideas and support research collaborations among HBS faculty and in the broader field of gender-interested scholars and practitioners through research groups, seminars, and conferences.

Seek to inspire, educate, and support leaders who make a difference in the world by cultivating a learning community of business leaders committed to advancing women and promoting gender equity.

Disseminate knowledge to advance understanding of the relationships among gender, leadership and careers and to suggest practical ways to promote inclusion and equity.

“From marketing and organizational behavior to strategy, social enterprise, and entrepreneurship, for more than one hundred years Harvard Business School and its faculty have been leaders in defining the roles and functions of business, as well as effective business practice,” Harvard Business School Dean Nitin Nohria said. “With the launch of this Initiative, we want to have a similar and lasting impact on the way the world understands and acts upon gender-related matters.”

“With such a long track record for success in bringing about change in the workplace,” Ely added, “Harvard Business School is the perfect place to locate efforts aimed at accelerating the advancement of women leaders as well.”


Jim Aisner

Rimjhim Dey

About Harvard Business School

Founded in 1908 as part of Harvard University, Harvard Business School is located on a 40-acre campus in Boston. Its faculty of more than 250 offers full-time programs leading to the MBA and PhD degrees, as well as more than 175 Executive Education programs, and Harvard Business School Online, the School’s digital learning platform. For more than a century, faculty have drawn on their research, their experience in working with organizations worldwide, and their passion for teaching, to educate leaders who make a difference in the world. The School and its curriculum attract the boldest thinkers and the most collaborative learners who will go on to shape the practice of business and entrepreneurship around the globe.