Tuesday, September 10, 2013

No, Really, What Is the Story at HBS?

A couple of my buds have been telling me I have to read the big NYT piece on sexism at the Harvard Business School.  I did read it, and didn't quite know what to make of it.  Then I read it again with the same response, plus an added fillip.  Specifically: I'm not sure the author knew quite what to make of it either.  Had she stumbled on an important story about sex discrimination at HBS?  About administrative overreach?  About the  terminal awfulness of HBS students?  Was she being spun by the marketing folks at one of the world's leading brands?

I don't know and like I say, I think she is not confident she knows either. Apparently the core story is straightforward enough evidently the worthies at Harvard (they have a grrl in the President's office) decided that it was time to reform the culture over at the B school, to stop boys being boys.  o have taken to try to clip the wings of the vulgarians, to level  the playing field (if that is what it is) for women in grading, and also (not least) to  make life a little less unbearable for women trying to run the gauntlet of tenure.
There are so many open threads here.  Part of me wants to say: sure sounds like Palookaville, where the young barbarians arrive every August with a stinkin' carload full of loutish caterwauling. The booze sounds familiar; the groping, oddly, we seem to hear less about.  I'm not sure whether (a) women here are more complaisant; or (b) men or better behaved or (c) women here despair of ever improving men's behavior. And by the way, ae HBS students supposed to be better?  Are people surprised that they are not better?  Could they be worse?  And by the way again, just exactly why did that promising youngster with a pregnant wife wind up dead in Portland, Maine?

But another part of me wants to say--really?  Women have trouble competing at HBS?  I had thought the problem was that women were running away with university life, capturing all the places, the grades, the awards, while the men lay stunned on the couch watching ESPN.  Is HBS different from everybody else, or am I just getting bad information?

It's probably to her credit that the author seems unable to answer all these questions, or even to frame them: means at least she is not going for the easy fix.  But I am struck by one bottom-line perplexity.  At the end of the day, these folks, men and women alike, are meant to learn; either (a) finance--which means a system designed to reduce the level of overall wellbeing in the world; or (b) marketing--which is about selling. Hey, it's a business school,   Don't take yourself too seriously.


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