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Harvard B-School Dean Says 'Sorry' to Female Grads

Nitin Nohria feels bad about the male-dominated culture at his school. Now five months after a New York Times expose on the subject, he's making a pledge to change it.
Nitin Nohria, professor of management at Harvard Business School, speaks during an interview in Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S., on Monday, May 3, 2010.

The leader of one of the country's top business schools issued an apology to its female graduates. 

Earlier this week at an alumni gala, Harvard Business School Dean Nitin Nohria said he's very sorry for the male-dominated culture at his school. "The school owed you better, and I promise it will be better," he said. 

So what needs improvement at Harvard, exactly? 

According to Jodi Kantor's rich investigation into the subject, which appeared in  The New York Times five months ago, men and women receive different treatment at the college, with only 14 percent of women landing at the top of the class in 2009, compared with 36 percent of men. Worse still, women are less likely to speak up in class, and the few female professors on campus admitted to feeling intimidated (and harassed) by male students. 

Among the changes Nohria pledged, according to Fortune, were to more than double the current 9 percent of case studies in which women are portrayed as central leaders in business problems. He also said he plans to launch "a program to help more women on serve on boards of directors and to more meaningfully encourage mentorship of female students and alumni." 

As Fortune reports, several women in the audience, many of whom were Harvard alumnae being honored by the HBS Association of Northern California for their impact on business, audibly sighed at the mention of the case study goal. And it was a little hard not to agree with them.

With women holding only 4.6 percent of Fortune 500 CEO positions in the country, Nohria's promise felt too little, too late. 

Last updated: Jan 30, 2014

JILL KRASNY | Staff Writer

Jill Krasny is a staff writer for Inc. magazine, where she covers the intersection of entertainment and startups. Prior to Inc., she was a writer for MTV and Esquire and an editor at TheStreet. She is a graduate of the University of Southern California with a degree in communication. She lives in New York City.

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