Inspiring Women Who Make a Difference

HBS '92 Classmates Terri Kennedy and Barrie Moscowitz at Harvard Business School Event

THE BUZZ: On Monday, April 29th, 2013, I attended the 50 Years of Women at HBS – Inspiring Women Who Make a Difference Reception at JP Morgan’s headquarters in New York. It was sponsored by the Harvard Business School (HBS) Women’s Association of Greater NY and hosted by Mary Callahan Erdoes, CEO of JP Morgan Asset Management and MBA ’93.

It was a delight to feel the electric energy and see so many dynamic women in one room. As MBA class of 1992, I’m proud to be a part of such an accomplished group. I caught up with some classmates such as Barrie Moscowitz and Brian Byrd (there were a few good men there!), and was thrilled to hear remarks from Professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter. Fifty years ago, the Harvard Business School faculty voted to admit women into the two-year MBA Program. Since then, about 12,000 women have graduated from the MBA, Doctoral, and Executive Education programs. Today, women make up 40% of the MBA class.

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of women’s admission, the School launched a research project to capture the arc of the careers and lives of their alumni. They released a preview of findings from the Life and Leadership after HBS survey.

One of the survey questions asked was “What factors impede women’s advancement?” Here are some highlights:

    * Alumni – women and men – believe that prioritizing family over work, an internal factor, is a top barrier to women’s career advancement.
    * Women’s and men’s perceptions of structural barriers (i.e. features that pertain directly to gender inequality in the workplace versus internal factors which we have more influence over) differ substantially, with women much more likely to agree that such barriers have limited women’s career advancements.
    * Women’s and men’s agreement diverges most sharply in their perception of women’s exclusion from informal networks and lack of influential mentors and sponsors. Three-fourths of women agree that these factors are barriers to women’s advancement, while half of men agree.
    * Three-fourths of women agree that the lack of a supportive work environment and an inhospitable organizational culture serve as barriers, while just over half of men share this assessment.

As the report states, these findings suggest that women and men hold different views about women’s experiences in the workplace and the extent to which biases and inequalities within organizations hinder women’s careers. While profound changes have occurred in the workplace over the past fifty years, women still have work to do to achieve parity in corporate, governmental, and other institutional leadership positions. The good news is that HBS women – like Mary Callahan Erdoes as CEO of JP Morgan Asset Management and Sheryl Sandberg as COO of Facebook (HBS ’95 and a fellow Young Global Leader) – are at the forefront of changing that paradigm.

Contributed by Teresa Kay-Aba Kennedy, Ph.D., MBA.

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