Gender-Related Material in the New Core Curriculum

To attendees at the WIM banquet, 2007 from Prof. Joanne Martin

January 01, 2007

I spoke informally at the WIM banquet about the paucity of tenure-line faculty who focus primarily on gender research, and about the shortage of gender-related material in the new core curriculum. Members of our GSB Organizational Behavior (OB) faculty (male as well as female) do some gender research: for example, Charles O’Reilly, Dale Miller, and Frank Flynn have published papers on gender topics, and Deb Gruenfeld has explicitly included gender in some of her research on power. In addition, Brian Lowery’s research focuses on race and Maggie Neale’s has done considerable work on diversity, broadly defined (see below).

Also, there is some gender material that is planned, or at least available from past teaching in core and elective courses, for use in the new core curriculum. Although the Critical Analytical Thinking (CAT ) course will not cover gender issues, OB faculty note that in many of the core and elective courses taught in OB, students raise gender-related questions that become part of the class discussion. Also, please note that planning for the core curriculum is still incomplete.

Maggie Neale: “In (Managing in Groups and) Teams, we don’t speak about gender per se. However, one entire session (the first) is devoted to the issue of team composition and highlights heterogeneous (i.e., diverse) teams and the challenges and benefits of such teams as well as specific prescriptions directed towards team leaders about how to be effective in such teams. In the second session of Teams, we focus on group process and end the session with a set of prescriptions for how to get your voice heard when you are a(n) (opinion) minority. In addition, we bring in the latest literature on ways in which we can be successful in getting a different opinion or perspective ‘heard’ and highlight what we know (in terms of research results) about how to be successful both as leaders and as members of such team.”

Frank Flynn: “Last fall I taught three sections of the OB core. We first introduced the topic of gender stereotypes in our second class session, particularly how these stereotypes can impact subjective performance appraisals and promotions. To provide fodder for our discussion, I presented students with the results from Rouse and Goldin’s symphony study published in AER (American Economic Review) (in which women (musicians) who auditioned “behind the curtain” were 50 percent more likely to get picked). I taught three cases in the core, only one of which focuses on a single protagonist. That case involved a female entrepreneur/venture capitalist named Heidi Roizen. In addition to discussing this case in class, I invited Heidi to visit the class (she spoke to all six sections). During her visit, Heidi commented extensively on the difficulties of being a woman in Silicon Valley.

“To support this discussion, I presented to students the results from a study I did a couple years ago involving the Heidi Roizen case. Specifically, with Harvard’s permission, I changed the original materials so that one section of the class received a version of the case called “Howard” Roizen (same case, just different pronouns) and the other section received the original case. Before class, I had the students go online and rate their impressions of “Roizen” on several dimensions. As you might expect, the results show that students were much harsher on Heidi than on Howard across the board. Although they think she’s just as competent and effective as Howard, they don’t like her, they wouldn’t hire her, and they wouldn’t want to work with her. As gender researchers would predict, this seems to be driven by how much they disliked Heidi’s aggressive personality. The more assertive they thought Heidi was, the more harshly they judged her (but the same was not true for those who rated Howard).

“In the final session for the OB course, we focus on the issue of diversity. As part of this session, I have students discuss the diversity at the GSB, a conversation that hinges on gender issues along with race and nationality. Taken together with the other sessions I mentioned, this seems to me like quite a bit of content that’s dedicated to gender issues (out of only nine class sessions). (Planning for the new core course, and Heidi Roizen’s availability, are not yet settled).”

Deb Gruenfeld (with regard to core OB courses taught prior to the new curriculum): “There will be gender content in the core this year (2007, as I assume there was last year) because Frank (Flynn’s) research on gender is now part of at least one session on networks, and it might very well be in other places as well. In addition, the last time I taught the core Brian (Lowery) and I addressed gender explicitly in our diversity session. My elective will deal with gender related issues, although this is not an explicit focus, as the challenges associated with “Acting with Power” tend to fall out on gender lines (e.g., in terms of the typical struggles I see, often they relate to women being uncomfortable with their authority, being too participative, not comfortable giving direction, and men being too authoritative, not comfortable being participative or subordinating oneself, even when hierarchy calls for that behavior).”

Charles O’Reilly: “One of the nine cases we do (in the Leadership part of the required course on Strategic Leadership is on Meg Whitman—which explicitly includes a discussion of gender, women’s leadership styles and are they different, and career issues for women. Throughout the term there was continuing reference to issues of gender and career issues. It (gender) used to be in H280 (the human resource core course) that we did a session on diversity (women) and career issues. In OB363 (the elective co-taught with Joel Peterson) we had three women leaders last year (Ann Fudge, Liz Davila and Lynn Twist) and much of the discussion during the term was around work-family balance (including with male leaders).”

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