Harvard MBA Women Slam Steve Bannon

Steve Bannon graduated from Harvard Business School with honors in 1983 and now he finds himself assailed by HBS students and alums

Steve Bannon graduated from Harvard Business School with honors in 1983 and now he finds himself assailed by HBS students and alums

More than 650 women who are graduates or current students of Harvard Business School have signed a letter condemning one of their own alums: Stephen Bannon, the newly named chief strategist for President-elect Donald Trump.

The women, representing 35 different class years at Harvard Business School, slammed Bannon, calling him a chief architect of the alt-right movement. The letter, sent to the editor of The New York Times, was apparently drafted by Lauren Rourke, who graduated from HBS with her MBA in 2015 and currently works as a consultant for New York office of The Bridgespan Group in New York, and Ali Huberlie, also a 2015 MBA grad who works as a consultant for the Boston office of Parthenon-EY.

While at HBS, Bannon was in the company of several students who went on to highly successful careers, including GE Chairman Jeffrey Immelt and JP Morgan Chairman Jamie Dimon, both of whom were second years when he entered Harvard Business School.


Ali Huberlie drafted the letter to the Times with classmate Lauren Rourke

Ali Huberlie drafted the letter to the Times with classmate Lauren Rourke

The letter, which will appear in tomorrow’s New York Times, is another example of the soul searching that has occurred among students at HBS and many other business schools since the upset election of Trump earlier this month. In a recently published open letter to Harvard Dean Nitin Norhia, second-year student Alek Duerksen assailed what he termed the bubble that students are in.

“I have been astounded by the degree of selfishness that HBS breeds,” wrote Duerksen, who will graduate from HBS next year with his MBA. “We are driven to seek meaningful lives, but only as we define them for ourselves. The current of our collective priorities impels us to discuss ethics rather than service. Profit rather than societal wellness. Investors rather than employees. Prestige rather than impact. Isolated conversations may touch on alternative viewpoints, but I believe the truth is highlighted by our actions.”

“I couldn’t count how many stories of and opportunities for fancy dinners, elaborate weeknight parties, high-flying job stories, black tie events, exposure to famous people, and extravagant international weekend trips we are privy to. I could easily count the number of meaningful service experiences I’ve had here. The answer is none. My section has a service component in the weekly email, but we have literally never pushed to do something as a group. The charity auction felt like training to be rich – a Philanthropy 101 event. My FIELD 2 “service day” in Morocco amounted to a tour of a home for handicapped persons and students complaining about how far outside the city it was. My ALD class congratulated itself for ‘not really caring about money’ because our average ‘number’ was only around a million dollars a year. And now with the election over, I am deafened by a resounding chorus of ‘isn’t it just awful how wrong all of those people are?’ instead of seeking to understand them.”


Lauren Rourke helped to draft the letter critical of Bannon

Lauren Rourke helped to draft the letter critical of Bannon

The criticism leveled at Bannon by HBS women is not the only attack against Trump. At Wharton, where Trump graduated with his undergraduate degree, more than 4,000 students, alumni, faculty and staff have signed a letter condemning the President-elect (see Whartonites Condemn Trump).

The letter to the Times follows:

To the Editor:

Hatred for women — hatred for anyone — has no place in the White House.

We are female graduates and current students of Harvard Business School. We represent a wide range of religions, ethnicities and professions. We are daughters, sisters and mothers; native-born Americans and immigrants; Republicans and Democrats.

While we do not always agree on politics, we can agree on this: We unequivocally disavow the appointment of our fellow Harvard Business School alumnus, Steve Bannon, as chief strategist and senior counselor to President-elect Donald Trump.

Mr. Bannon has been described as one of the chief architects of the alt-right movement, a movement that preaches white nationalism, racism, misogyny and hatred. He has repeatedly put forth hateful rhetoric against women, including a radio interview in which he referred to progressive, educated women as ‘a bunch of dykes.’ Until recently, Mr. Bannon was the executive chairman of Breitbart, a media company founded in 2007 to challenge the ‘liberal media’ bias.

But Breitbart, under Mr. Bannon, also embraced a more sinister element — a white nationalist and anti-feminist agenda. Breitbart frequently publishes articles that disparage women, such as “Would You Rather Your Child Had Feminism or Cancer?” It also directly targets and tries to discredit prominent women leaders, such as our fellow alumna Sheryl Sandberg, with reporting like “REVEALED: Sheryl Sandberg’s Wacky 1991 Feminist Thesis.” The inclusion of Steve Bannon in the White House legitimizes and emboldens these voices.

We believe that women in the highest positions of power have an obligation to ensure that the mistreatment of women is not blindly accepted and condoned — to use our voice, and our power, to combat the legitimization of hate.

We are hopeful that President-elect Trump will use his power to advance the rights of women around the world. We are supportive of his potential policies, such as paid maternity leave, that promote those goals. In that spirit, we call for the appointment of unifying figures after a contentious election rather than people with divisive records and agendas.

Our institution has had the honor of being associated with great American politicians and leaders. Steve Bannon does not deserve a place alongside them on the mantle of Harvard Business School’s legacy.




The letter was signed by 650 women who are graduates or current students representing 35 different class years at Harvard Business School.


Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.