TO IMPROVE Gender Diversity, We have to Get back to School

Whenever your company’s recruiting problems attract the attention of a famous politician, you understand you’re in big trouble. At a rare public appearance a couple weeks ago, Hillary Clinton spoke about the necessity for more women “at any table . where decisions are created” — and called out Uber by name over those recent accusations of a culture of sexism in its workplace.

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Uber’s recently released “diversity report” did little to assuage the concerns of critics, since it shows that near 80 percent of the company’s leadership is male. Yet Uber isn’t alone in this regard, and several people have remarked that its numbers aren’t that not the same as those at other tech companies.

Indeed, our research at Babson College Center for Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership demonstrates gender diversity is a problem through the entire startup world. Only 15 percent of VC-funded companies have a female on the executive team, and only 3 percent have a female CEO. Although women are gaining ground, men remain 50 percent much more likely than women to be entrepreneurs.

This insufficient diversity isn’t bad simply for women; it’s harmful to business. Numerous studies show that greater gender diversity on boards and in corporate leadership positions is connected with greater profitability and higher stock values.

Just how do we raise the number of women entrepreneurs and executives? Portion of the solution is to revamp the educational pipeline that shapes future talent. We must train students of most backgrounds and genders to envision women as CEOs, entrepreneurs and innovators, also to know how gender dynamics affect their teams, products — and important thing.

As working out ground for tomorrow’s leaders, business schools and university business programs play a significant role in setting the tone. Yet we often present an outdated vision of business leadership. Research implies that women are marginalized throughout business school, from the language found in classrooms to the makeup of the faculty, to the representations of entrepreneurship in academic papers and case studies.

That must end.

For example: Business students spend hours poring over case studies that disproportionately feature CEOs and key decision-makers who are men. One study discovered that only 11 percent of the 74 most popular cases from 2009 to 2015 had a female protagonist, and nearly half didn’t include any women at all.

Business students also learn primarily from men, since typically only 15 percent to twenty five percent of professors at top business schools are women. These disparities present future CEOs, entrepreneurs and managers with a vision of business leadership that’s almost exclusively male.

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That’s unfortunate because, in today’s economy, gender acumen is a requisite leadership skill. Understanding gender is vital for optimizing relationships with employees, customers and colleagues. We expect MBA programs to expose students to a number of business sectors and experiences, which range from entrepreneurship and corporate leadership, to finance and marketing. Shouldn’t gender be as important as race, ethnicity and other dimensions of diversity?

For business schools that are looking to lead just how on gender, the initial step is to take stock of the way the institution currently represents itself. At Babson, we’ve analyzed the diversity of the case studies found in our business school core-curriculum, plus the speakers and panelists featured at major events and the students taking part in important programs and leadership roles.

That analysis has covered such criteria as:

  1. The diversity of the institution’s faculty, administrators, speakers, mentors, and student leaders
  2. How gender is represented in the curriculum and language found in the classroom
  3. How professors identify case studies, journal articles and other teaching materials that present gender diversity

To carefully turn things around, we’ve:

  1. Reached out to professors to greatly help them identify good case studies and articles.
  2. Normalized gender diversity within the curriculum, instead of confining discussions of gender to "women-centric" events and activities
  3. Needed that school-funded events and conferences represent ladies in panels and as keynote speakers

Former, current and prospective students ought to be asking these same questions of their own business schools. Our review, for example, helped identify areas where we are actually making a concerted effort to market a far more inclusive view of business leadership — and where we’re able to do more.

We’ve created a database of case studies featuring women protagonists for faculty to use in developing their courses. And we’ve worked hard on achieving gender balance in school panels and speakers.

But Babson’s efforts are hardly the total of the gender-balance efforts going on today: There are plenty of ways business schools are promoting gender inclusivity, from revamping admissions and school funding to changing curricula and facilitating discussions around gender.

Over time, it’s important that schools (and companies) stop confining discussions of gender to women-centric events and material and commence to normalize gender diversity throughout their institutions and activities. Studies also show that whenever business lessons and research feature women or discuss gender, they are generally geared to women or defined as being exclusively about gender or diversity.

Instead, information on gender ought to be an all natural part of a thorough business school education. It must be worked in to the core curriculum, and also become a part of targeted optional events and activities.

Companies might reap the benefits of an identical approach that targets everyone.

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Ultimately, change must start at the start of the pipeline, if not we’ll continue steadily to replicate those same traditional imbalances. Gender equity isn’t only a problem for us to resolve, it’s an opportunity for all of us to lead. If schools innovate around how exactly we understand and teach gender and prepare future executives and entrepreneurs for a far more inclusive world, maybe another hot startup could have div

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