Kopacka is part of a group of eight Haas class of ’16 students – six women and two men – taking the gender-parity baton from the class of ’15 group via the independent study course. They’ll continue to research the gender issues at Haas, and plan to push for more female graduate student instructors. Also, says Andresen, the new group, with six of the original group’s students as advisers, will explore an idea that came up among the original group: evaluating the suitability of cases for teaching according to the presence and roles of women, similar to the Bechdel Test for movies.
The students’ work on gender at Haas has built on efforts on gender parity underway for several years by school officials, work that has focused on increasing the presence and effect of women in outreach initiatives, says Stephanie Fujii, assistant dean of the MBA program. “In terms of the impact that (the activist students) have, I can’t say enough,” Fujii says. The school’s work to improve gender representation began in earnest a few years back with outreach events targeting women, in conjunction with four to seven other schools, she says. The school’s chief operating officer spearheaded an initiative in 2013 to identify gaps in the program for women and increase inclusivity in the culture. Involving successful alumna in outreach has helped attract women to the MBA program, Fujii says. “We’ve always had such an engaged group of students and alums who really care about diversity . . . especially alumna.”
NATION’S FOCUS ON GENDER ISSUES BOOSTS POOL
Fujii believes nationwide attention to issues around women in business and in business school has enlarged the B-school applicant pool, and women’s applications for the Haas class of ’16 reflected the strongest ambitions toward leadership Fujii has seen among female applicants, she says.
McElhaney notes that globally, women’s $19 trillion spending power is twice the GDP of India and China combined, and that 89% of consumers are female. These numbers, when compared to the numbers of women graduating from business schools, show that business has a gender problem with a serious effect on bottom lines, McElhaney suggests. “Companies have India and China growth strategies,” she says, “but they don’t have women growth strategies. It’s not really smart.”