Let’s Be Honest About Gender Discrimination at Business Schools
“The first rule of Fight Club is…you do not talk about Fight Club. The second rule of Fight Club is you DO NOT talk about Fight Club!”
Remember those lines from Brad Pitt? These days, you’d think they were taken from b-school administrators about gender discrimination. At first glance, the bombshell was dropped in June, when a internal report revealed gender bias at the Anderson School of Management in its hiring and promotion practices. Of course, the seeds had been sewn two years earlier, with revelations about Harvard Business School’s supposed Mad Men culture.
But it isn’t just the headlines screaming about a war on women in the faculty lounges. In a Bloomberg Businessweek essay, Linda Scott argues that b-schools have made precious little progress in hiring women…let alone creating a hospitable environment for them. And Scott, who serves as the DP World Chair for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Oxford’s Saïd Business School, doesn’t pull any punches in her thesis: “…the truth few academics want to face is that discrimination against female faculty at business schools is a systematic, law-breaking practice, long embedded in the power structures of these institutions.”
Jeez, tell us what you really think!
Well, let’s s start with the data. In a AACSB chart – which doesn’t include a publication date – female professors accounted for – at best – a quarter of all full-time business school professors (with the percentage being as low as 10% in finance). Among all faculty, the percentage is closer to a third. While 25%-45% of all new doctorate hires are women, it’s clear that business education is still a boy’s club (especially with two-thirds of MBA candidates being men at many schools).
In two other AACSB charts (also undated), Scott also demonstrates that women lag behind men in compensation. While female new hires earn nearly the same as their male counterparts in management and accounting, they earn $10,000-$20,000 less in marketing and finance. Among established faculty, women experience a similar discrepancy in pay.
Scott also cited 1988 and 2004 studies from Shani D. Carter of the Rhode Island School of Management, which showed that women were bunched together in lower-paying and less-secure positions like lecturer and instructor (as opposed to professor and associate professor). While some many argue that a decade-old study is out-of-date – and diversity efforts will eventually increase the percentage of women in business faculty – Scott issues a stern rebuttal:
“Interestingly, a version of that reasoning is used today—that diversity efforts take time to register real change. But these data were a predictive snapshot of the power structure within business schools: Women are in the lowest, most vulnerable posts and men are at the far end where the power to decide the fate of others lies. Today, men occupy 81 percent of full professor posts at business schools—down only one percentage point since 2010.”
In other words, change may come, but only at a glacial pace. Along with referencing hiring, compensation, and power structures, Scott also points the finger at schools for nurturing combative cultures, fostering stereotypes, and failing to act on complaints. In short, it was the usual academic tripe: Long on the litany and short on solutions. Make no mistake: This issue is brewing. And it’ll only take a spark – a lawsuit or an embarrassing slip of the tongue – for this issue to really come to the fore.
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Source: Bloomberg Businessweek