Editorial: Make the Faust-ian move: Support women in higher education

By The Pitt News Editorial Staff

Harvard Business School was in desperate need of help. As the premier business training ground for individuals pursuing employment in the finance and marketing sector, the business school found itself combatting an intractable problem: a female demographic exemplifying the same struggle witnessed decades ago by those fighting for the right to vote.

Whether it was the student body or the faculty, the business school saw less of a presence of females due to the cultural mentalities of the business sector and its tendency to be a male-dominated field. The Harvard school’s recent case study on gender equity highlighted this very fact: Females were targeted from every facet: in the classroom, as faculty and in the real world.

Women, fearing potential social chastisement, participated less in the classroom, were less likely to hold positions on the school’s faculty, and those who were faculty were less likely to be tenured when compared to males on payroll. The income gap was also a prevalent issue, with males receiving heftier paychecks.

When Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust, the university’s first female president, appointed Nitin Nohria in 2010 as the business school’s new dean, the ideology of female inferiority quickly changed. 

Nohria found it imperative to overhaul such an ailing system by viewing the issue from an education perspective. Realizing that Harvard Business School is arguably the standard-bearer of American enterprise, Nohria and his team implemented steps to alter how students at the school carried themselves, socialized and interacted in hopes that other business schools, corporations that employ Harvard alumni and the business sector as a whole would rid their immoral stigmas toward women, as well.

This goal — as noble as it is — is a work in progress and one that cannot be achieved immediately. But the school’s move to address a problem that’s highlighted throughout the business world — in which women, regardless of their intellectual and academic experience, are less likely to achieve success than their male counterparts simply because of their gender — should be lauded.

Efforts to re-evaluate the higher education hierarchy, taking into consideration the lack of females who occupy administrative positions, should be pursued. The ultimate goal is to break a mold that has been formulated and strengthened for decades. Women are no less capable than men, and bias against them cannot be tolerated. Through increased introspection, with regard to the employment of females in the higher education hierarchy, a future in which women have a presence similar to that of men is entirely feasible.