Business School Case Studies To Focus More on Women

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When business school students examine case studies of the workplace, more often than not, they're studies of businesses run by men.

Although more men run American companies than do women, far more women are corporate managers than the current business curriculums would suggest.

Armed with a grant from a national organization of women business executives, Harvard Business School in Cambridge, Mass., will begin teaching more case studies featuring senior women managers, school officials said last week.

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The case-study method, which is used by many business schools, draws on firsthand accounts of management situations, from problems with operating policies to accounting methods to market research.

Harvard professors said only a fraction of their current cases revolve around women managers. The university sells about 6 million copies of the studies it produces to business schools worldwide each year.

Marjorie Alfus, a former executive at Kmart who came up with the idea of the grant, said she wanted to influence business through education and not simply through networking.

She donated $250,000, which was then matched by the Committee of 200, the national group of women businesses leaders. Harvard matched that for a total pledge of $1 million, says Ms. Alfus. Harvard typically spends about $25,000 for each case study it writes.

The Committee of 200 will help Harvard identify women business executives who might serve as suitable subjects for case studies.

"Women are frequently loathe to be the protagonists of case studies," says Alfus.

Harvard Business School is still overwhelmingly male. The first-year class of about 900 people is 29 percent women. The percentage has been holding steady for the last five years, school officials say.

Of the school's 200 faculty, 30 are women.

"We think that it will make for a better environment for business education," says F. Warren McFarlan, a professor of business administration at the business school.

"It will be helpful for both the men in the program to get used to this as well as for the women."

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