Good News! MBA Programs Focus on Sexual Harassment Prevention for Future Leaders

The #MeToo era continues to have a positive impact on our culture, including on the training of future corporate leaders in MBA programs. Katie Johnston of the Boston Globe writes that “As the #MeToo movement continues to reveal how ingrained sexual harassment is in corporate culture, business schools have started taking steps to teach future leaders how to deal with, and eradicate, such behavior.” Johnston cites a senior lecturer at MIT’s Sloan School of Business as saying, “People are waking up in business schools and realizing we’ve had a blind spot.” Johnston writes that while MBA programs had begun putting more focus on ethics and values after recent corporate scandals, such as the one at Wells Fargo last year, it was not until the Weinstein scandal that business schools began to add sexual harassment to the curriculum. In fact, in some cases the MBA students themselves took matters into their own hands before programs got the message. At MIT, the MBA students organized their own improvisation workshops about how to deal with sexual harassment. MIT now acknowledges that leadership must include being able to address both systemic and behavioral changes to eradicate sexual harassment. David Gelles and Claire Cain Miller of the New York Times quote Leanne Meyer of Carnegie Mellon as stating, “up until now, business leaders were largely responsible for delivering products. Now, shareholders are looking to corporate leaders to” take a stand on moral and social justice issues. MBA programs have started training leaders to do just that. Johnston, Gelles, and Miller describe some of the changes business schools are incorporating into their programs and curriculums:

  • New courses at MIT Sloan are dedicated to advancing equity and inclusion in the workplace.
  • A new ethics course at Stanford teaches how to create a workplace environment where people are comfortable reporting sexual misconduct.
  • Several schools are adding case studies, such as one on harassment at Uber.
  • Some students are forming male ally groups to support gender equity.
  • More courses show how leaders can create a workplace culture where sexual harassment isn’t tolerated.
  • At the Northeastern School of Business, a curriculum overhaul currently underway will weave issues facing working women into the fabric of its coursework.
  • Stanford Business School students study psychological research showing that people are more willing to challenge authority if at least one other person joins them.
Gelles and Miller note that the Forté Foundation is working with a number of business schools to help more women advance into leadership roles. More than two dozen schools have started groups based on the Forté model, including a group called the Manbassadors “for men committed to gender equity in business.” One male participant in the Manbassador program at Dartmouth explained that the goal is “making sure that as men we’re very aware of some of the privileges we’re afforded simply because of gender.” I don’t know about you, but I feel hopeful that because of these changes corporate cultures may really change one day to become equitable, inclusive, and safe places for women to work. The next generation of leaders appear to be taking the gender blinders off. Hopefully the corporate cultures they create will be equitable and inclusive for all currently disadvantaged groups.   Photo courtesy of Paul Lowry (CC BY 2.0)]]>

Where Are the Women Entrepreneurs?

I grew up in a family of entrepreneurs where my mother and many of my aunts were strong businesswomen. I am also an entrepreneur, perhaps because I had female role models, and I have always wondered—why don’t more women start businesses? Claire Cain Miller of the New York Times  agrees that something is wrong with the underrepresentation of female business founders. She notes that while women make up half the workforce and earn 40–50 percent of the degrees in business, science, and engineering, fewer than 10 percent of technology startups are founded by women, and only 36 percent of all US companies are owned by women. Also, many woman-owned businesses are small, employ only the founder, and earn less revenue than businesses founded by men, according to the census data. Why are there fewer women entrepreneurs? Miller cites research reflecting the following factors:

  • Women have fewer role models.
  • People mentor and give venture capital money to people like themselves. Miller notes that this dynamic is called “homophily, or love of same.”
  • Of all venture capitalists, 91 percent are male. Most worked in investment banking, private equity, or consulting and went to the same few universities—Harvard, Stanford, or University of Pennsylvania.
  • Not surprisingly, 91 percent of venture capital-backed entrepreneurs are men. Most of them have degrees from similar colleges and worked in the same firms.
  • Women are outside of these established networks and do not get the same mentoring, contacts, or funding opportunities.
  • Women are also less likely to get management experience before trying to become entrepreneurs. Only 19 percent of top executives are women, so women are less likely to have mentors in senior leadership.
Another disturbing roadblock is that women can experience sexual harassment by venture capitalists, especially when women are raising funds for technology startups. The massive imbalance of power between women and men controlling venture capital funds means that women are often propositioned or inappropriately touched as a condition of receiving funding, jobs, or other help that they need to start businesses. They often do not receive the funding when they rebuff the sexual advance. What difference do women entrepreneurs and investors make for women and for companies? Miller cites research by Linda Bell of Barnard College showing that the gender pay gap shrinks when women are the CEOs of companies, and women are more likely to be promoted when women are the leaders. In another article, Miller  reports that when venture capital firms hire a female investing partner, the financial performance of the venture capital firm improves. While networking groups for women like Astia or women-led investment groups like Broadway Angels can help, women cannot change these lopsided dynamics without male allies fighting alongside them for these changes. Perhaps more men with daughters will be motivated to challenge the status quo. Miller cites a research paper by Gompers and Wang showing that male venture capitalists with daughters show less bias against women in making hiring and funding decisions. We need to tackle this imbalance together with conscious intentionality.   Photo courtesy of Kevin Krejc. CC by 2.0]]>