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HBS Sees Slow Faculty Diversity Gains

Harvard Business School’s 2017 commencement

Harvard Business School has seen only marginal growth growth in faculty diversity over the past decade, according to a report published last month by Harvard University’s Presidential Task Force on Inclusion and Belonging. The report looked at 10-year student, faculty, and staff diversity trends based on under-represented U.S. minorities, international students, and gender at 11 of the university’s professional schools, including Harvard Business School. From 2006 to 2016, the percentage of tenured or tenure-track women faculty members at HBS rose from 22% to 26%. University-wide, the rate is about 34% women.

During the same timeframe, the percentage of tenured or tenure-track under-represented minorities also climbed slightly, from 5% to 7%. Again, HBS trails the university-wide rate of 18%. For international tenured and tenure-track faculty, the rate at HBS was at 8% in 2006 and 2016, which is closer to the university’s 9% rate. And Asian-American faculty members at HBS surged from 12% in 2006 to 20% in 2016. The report did not include Asian-American rates for the entire university faculty.

Compared to Harvard’s other professional schools, HBS has a below-average percentage of women and under-represented minorities on faculty. Only the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences had fewer women faculty members in 2016, and all but three of the 11 professional schools had equal or more under-represented minority faculty members.

Source: Harvard University’s Pursuing Excellence on a Foundation of Inclusion report

“Achieving diversity and inclusion requires deliberate attention and effort, not merely the absence of intentional discrimination or ill will,” the report reads. “Those of us who hire teams, bring on new faculty, or admit students may easily fall into the habit of recruiting people who resemble ourselves — not merely in qualities we all hope to embody, such as integrity, creativity, diligence, and potential for significant intellectual development, but also in social background, cultural style, and previous life experience.”

According to the report, such hiring and acceptance practices can lead to a “resulting homogeneity,” which in turn leads to “intellectual blind spots that weaken both decision-making and scholarship.”

“It is easy to forget that our teams will be stronger if we take the time and energy to tap into the broadest spectrum of talent, rather than follow the familiar habits and procedures that replicate our own,” the report says.


While HBS lags in diversity rates among other Harvard professional schools, it more than holds its own amidst its peer business schools, both internationally and domestically. According to Financial Times data, HBS faculty is currently 28% women. The discrepancy from the report’s 26% rate could be from a slight recent uptick (from 2016, when the 26% was reported), or a difference in definition of faculty (the FT could include all faculty instead of just tenured and tenure-track faculty). Regardless, Harvard Business School’s rate of 28% is higher than all but 15 other schools included in the most recent FT top 50 B-schools. Only five American business schools have higher rates. Because of the overall low rates, however, it says more about the industry’s need to hire more female faculty members rather than HBS’s rate being high.