Understanding and Changing the Gender Bias at Harvard Business School

Did you know that the full-time Harvard MBA program began accepting female applicants only 50 years ago? Women have a lot of ground to make up in this notoriously male-dominated school. To even the playing field, HBS is trying to change their culture.

HBS’ Male-Dominated Culture

Women who start school with the same test scores and grades as their male peers often fall behind.



Class participation makes up 50% of the grading criteria and women are having a hard time participating in class discussions. The weighted importance of discussion creates an ultra-competitive culture where the loudest and most aggressive students win praise from their professors and admiration from their peers. These model students are predominantly male. Researches found that female students often took longer than male students to collect their thoughts and deliver a response. Male students tended to respond more quickly and assertively and often didn’t raise their hands before speaking.

Time for a Gender Makeover

HBS doesn’t just have a problem with gender bias among the student population. The school has also had a difficult time retaining female professors. From 2006-2007, one third of the female junior faculty resigned. A new dean, Nitin Nohria, was asked to address the gender disparity.  He did so by instituting hand-raising seminars, placing stenographers in classrooms, and providing detailed teaching critiques to female professors after every class. These measures were criticized for not resembling the business world that women would enter after graduating.

Something Needs to Change

While we still live in a world where women represent only 4.2% of CEOs, it is obvious that something needs to be done to change the culture of both business schools and the corporations. HBS’ culture shift is teaching students to identify and alter their biases and enter the business world with an open mind. Education for future leaders is the key to creating an equally balanced workforce in our lifetimes.

Book Recap: What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast

What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast: A Short Guide to Making Over Your Mornings–and Life by Laura Vanderkam

Published in 2012
32 pages

Key Points

After researching the lives of successful people, Laura Vanderkam found one striking commonality- the early bird gets the worm! Successful people tend to wake up earlier than the average person, often rising before 6:00 a.m. They spend the early morning hours doing life-enriching activities that fall into the four categories below.

Healthy Pursuits

Healthy pursuits include early morning exercise and healthy eating. Vanderkam suggests choosing an exercise routine that best fits your life and motivation style. If you need accountability, you may want to hire a personal trainer to meet you at the gym in the morning to insure you’ll follow through with your commitment. If you are motivated by competition, you could join a running group or a swim club.

Strategic Career Planning

How much time do you dedicate to planning your career? Brainstorming your career path is important, but not urgent, so it usually falls to the bottom of a long to-do list. Many successful people spend an hour each morning envisioning and planning their next big idea. If exercising in the morning is not appealing to you, perhaps intense concentration on your career aspirations is a better use of your time.

Spiritual Contemplation

Prayer, meditation, deep breathing, and other relaxation techniques help center some professionals before starting their busy day. Some people choose to read religious texts while others journal their feelings and dreams. These activities can calm a busy mind and help you focus on the tasks at hand. If you check your email before getting out of bed, you may benefit from some technology-free quiet time before you start your day.

Quality Time With the Family

At the end of the day, professionals feel like they can’t give their best to their families because they are exhausted and stressed. Instead of trying to force a family dinner around hectic schedules, you could make a family breakfast routine. Spending quality time together doesn’t have to be limited to evening hours.

Mornings are YOUR time. Spend them how you prefer.

Just like the idea of paying yourself first to save money, you should spend your mornings in the way that gives you the greatest benefit. Creating a routine can be difficult,  but ultimately allows you to be happier and more productive.



Dressing for Success in Your 20s

After college, you may not want to part with your yoga pants and t-shirts… and you don’t have to! But, you shouldn’t wear them to work.

So, what should you wear?

In your 20s, you’re still building a professional wardrobe. In work places with a business casual dress code, minor faux pas will be overlooked. This is not the case in all companies or for all job functions. These ten essential clothing items work for any office and can transition from formal to casual with the right accessories.

10 Essential Clothing Items for Your Office Wardrobe

Check out photos of the items mentioned on Candlelit’s Pinterest page.
1.  A black pencil skirt
  • The fit: The skirt should hit you right at the top of your kneecaps and fit snugly, but not be tight or clingy.
  • Why buy? A black pencil skirt will complement any top and can be dressed up or down depending on the accessories and other pieces.
2. A black blazer
  • The fit: The sleeves of the blazer should cover the top of your wrist bones when your arms are stretched out in front of your body. The jacket should not pull across the shoulders or chest, and should button with ease.
  • Why buy? You can pair the blazer with the pencil skirt to create a “suit” for job interviews and more formal business events. You may not want to shill out for a real suit, which can be several hundred dollars, at this point in your career.
3. A white button-down, collared shirt
  • The fit: Much like the blazer, the shirt should just cover your wrist bones when your arms are stretched out in front of you. The buttons should not pull across your chest; if they pull, you need to size up.
  • Why buy? Pairing the shirt with the two previous items (blazer and pencil skirt) creates a basic suit. White goes with everything and button-down collared shirts give everyone a crisp, fresh look.
4. Black or dark grey dress pants
  • The fit: The pants should be tailored to graze the the tops of your shoes. Although the same pair of pants can work with heels or flats, it is best to have two pairs – one for heels and one for flats. The pants should fit nicely, but not hug your curves like jeans. The cut is up to you- bootleg, skinny, wide leg, whatever you feel comfortable with.
  • Why buy? Dress pants are an alternative to the pencil skirt for days when you don’t feel like wearing a skirt, have meetings in a cold conference room, or need a greater range of mobility. You can pair them with the blazer and top to create another “suit.”
5. Basic black dress
  • The fit: Knee-length and fitted. You can choose long sleeves, three-quarter length sleeves, or sleeveless. This piece can easily be dressed formal or informal with the right accessories- colored nylons, patterned shoes, belts, scarves, or statement jewelry.
  • Why buy? Every woman needs an office appropriate LBD (Little Black Dress). It exudes an effortless vibe of sophistication and can transition from work to Happy Hour with ease.
6. A colorful cardigan
  • The fit: Depending on the sleeve length, the cuff may hit anywhere from above the elbow, mid-forearm, or to the wrist bones. Make sure the cardigan can button properly across your chest without pulling.
  • Why buy? A fun wardrobe addition like a colorful cardigan can add flair and create outfits from the previously mentioned neutral pieces. This piece can express your personality. Do you like neon colors? Polka dots? Stripes? As long as the piece fits well and you pair it with a neutral, anything’s possible.
7. A trench coat or leather jacket
  • The Fit: Be sure you can comfortably wear shirts and sweaters underneath the coat as it will transition from fall and early winter to spring. Follow blazer fit guidelines.
  • Why buy? The first thing your coworkers see when you walk into the office in the morning is your jacket. A great jacket means you’ll always look pulled together no matter the situation – running errands at 5 a.m., coming back from the gym at 10:00 p.m. – doesn’t matter, you’ll look great. A trench coat or leather jacket can be worn 6-9 months of the year depending on where you live.
8. A jewel tone top
  • The Fit: A flattering blouse fit for your body shape. The style is up to you, there are professional tops in many varieties.
  • Why Buy? Jewel tones look good on everyone. The rich colors complement all skin tones and look more expensive than pastels or neutrals. Along with the cardigan, the jewel tone top can add a pop of color to your wardrobe that you can pair with any neutral or, perhaps, your colorful cardigan.
9. A great pair of dark wash jeans
  • The Fit: A cut that flares away from your body at the largest point. The jeans should be dark wash with absolutely no embellishments, whiskering, or distressing. Plain denim can function as a neutral.
  • Why Buy? If your workplace has casual Fridays or special jean days, you want to participate while still looking stylish and mature. Light wash, distressed, and embellished jeans will make you look like you’re still an undergrad.
10. Statement jewelry
  • The Fit: Noticeable, but not overpowering for your stature. Statement jewelry can be a necklace, bracelet, watch, or even rings.
  • Why Buy? You’re young and big jewelry is fun! A statement piece can add intrigue to an otherwise boring outfit. It’s also a conversation starter. People notice statement jewelry and usually have positive reactions to it.

As your career progresses, you will continue to add more pieces and build your wardrobe. Remember to keep a sense of your own personal style. Fashion should be enjoyable and office wear is no exception.

The Top 5 Takeaways from Elle’s 2013 Power Survey

Do you think you’re scrutinized more harshly than your male coworkers?

Maybe you are!

Half of men and two-thirds of women think women are scrutinized more harshly than men in the workplace.

This revelation was one of many shocking stats revealed in the results of Elle’s recent workplace survey. 

Here are the five top takeaways (for all workers) from the 2013 Power Survey.

Takeaway #1: Entry-level employees need to speak up

Only one third of entry-level employees regularly voiced their opinions in meetings. Being green doesn’t mean that that you don’t have something valuable to say. Be respectful of the 75% of executives that regularly speak up, but don’t be afraid to share your insights and fresh ideas. The only way to get noticed is to actively engage.

Takeaway #2: Ask and you shall receive (a raise!)

A shocking 53% of women have never asked for a raise! But there’s good news for those who gather their courage and request a salary bump. Over 89% of male and female employees who negotiated a higher starting salary were successful. Click here for tips on how to prepare for negotiating your first job offer.

Takeaway #3: Working mothers feel unappreciated

The U.S. is one of only eight countries that does not have government mandated paid maternity leave forcing many working mothers to take unpaid leave. After the child is born, 61% of mothers says that employers are not sympathetic to their work/life balance. Most mothers (86%) are not given lighter workloads by their bosses after having children. Not surprisingly, many women don’t want to be working; 48% state they’d stay home if their family could afford it. Employers that show consideration for working mothers’ needs will create better employee engagement and higher levels of job fulfillment.

Takeaway #4: Both men and women have little confidence in women’s leadership abilities

Men and women both doubted a woman’s ability to lead, citing lack of toughness (35% of men, 31% of women) as one of the reasons women don’t occupy top jobs. Another popular concern was family life consuming too much time (51% of women, 46% of men). Discrimination only accounted for 55% of women’s votes and 33% of men’s. Changing the face of leadership will take time, but many women are already regarded as strong leaders because of their empathy, flexibility, and interpersonal skills.

Takeaway #5: The wage gap, stereotypes, and workplace discrimination are real and prevalent

The wage gap persists with women earning $.77 for every dollar a man earns. 30% of women surveyed said they would earn more money if they were male and 20% of males said they would earn less as females. As much as 40% of the current wage gap is unexplained, so, do your research, and ask for that raise already!

Results on stereotypes in the workplace were positive, if patronizing, towards women and critical towards men. Women were described as compassionate 33% more often than men and other common descriptors including polite (13%) , patient (12%), and hardworking (8%). On the other hand, men were described with more negative terms like aggressive (127%), lazy (233%), and impatient (88%). Call out gender stereotypes in the workplace. Use adjectives to describe personality, not gender, traits.

A disturbing 28% of women have been discriminated against in the workplace. But it doesn’t get any better with more power. The higher the woman’s job position, the more sexism she experiences (45 times more!). If you feel you are being discriminated against, talk to your manager or Human Resources.

How to Prepare for Your First Job Offer Negotiation

Negotiating a job offer can be scary, especially if it’s your first job after college. According to salary.com, failing to negotiate can cost a women $500,000 over the course of her career! If you want that money in your bank account, not left on the table, then you need to know how to successfully prepare for your first job offer negotiation.

Step One: Do Your Research

In negotiation, if you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail. If you want to get the best offer possible, you have to do your homework. Planning your negotiation can also help ease your nerves and build your confidence.

What Do You Need to Know?

The first thing you need to know is the average salary for a person with your experience in your field. You should also familiarize yourself with the cost of living in the area. You can use the following websites to get an idea of what your base pay should be.

After determining the average salary for the position, you should look at the other factors in salary and benefits negotiations. You can research similar sized companies’ benefits to get an idea of your industry’s standards. Some common benefits include paid time off, flextime, bonuses, office space, health club memberships, and on-site daycare or childcare vouchers.  Depending on your lifestyle, some benefits may be more important to you than others. You should create a ranking system to help you decide which benefits are most important to you.

Step Two: Create a Ranking System

In order to determine the minimum offer you would accept, you must create a ranking system for your job offer. Doing so will keep the negotiation based in rationality instead of emotionality.

How to Create a Ranking System

First, list all of the benefits that you’d like to negotiate, in order of importance.

For example, your benefits, in order of importance, may look like this:

  1. Salary
  2. Paid Time Off
  3. Office space
  4. Parking pass/Transportation pass
  5. Childcare

Try to limit your list to the five most important benefits you’d like to negotiate.

The next step is assigning point totals to the benefits you’ve listed. Your ranked benefits may look like this:

Benefit Description Point Value
Salary $45,000, $50,000 opening offer 10 points for $45-50K, -5 points for anything under $45K
Paid Time Off 15 days, opening offer 18 days 10 points for 10-15 days, -5 points for anything under 10 days
Office Space Private office/cube, opening offer of private office/cube 5 points for private office/cube, 0 points for shared work space
Parking Pass/Transportation Pass Parking pass/unlimited public transit pass, opening offer of 100% company paid for parking/public transportation 5 points for 100% company paid for, 3 points for 50% company paid for, 0 points for self-paid
Childcare Free childcare, childcare voucher, opening offer of free childcare (if on-site is available), 100% cost of childcare voucher 3 points for 100% company covered, 0 points for self-paid

For each benefit, you should have a specific goal in mind. That goal is your target point. You want to start with an opening offer of 5-10% higher than your target point. Your resistance point is the lowest offer you would accept. Your point value system can be anything that makes sense to you. In this example, if you received your  opening offer for each benefit, you’d  end the negotiation with a total of 33 points and accept the offer.

Never reveal your resistance point!

Your resistance point is your source of power in the negotiation. You do not want to let the other party know the lowest offer you will accept because, if you do, that will be what they offer you. In the example above, you may decide that you need a total of 15 points to accept the job. These points could be obtained through any combination of benefits. If you do not reach your resistance point of 15 points, then you would decline the job offer. In order to confidently decline the job offer, you must know your best alternative to a negotiated agreement.

Step Three: Know Your BATNA (Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement)

A BATNA is your best possible outcome if an agreement is not reached. For a job offer, your BATNAs may include working somewhere else, staying at your current job, taking time off work, or collecting unemployment. The stronger your BATNA, the more leverage you have in a negotiation. With a great BATNA, you can walk away at any point in the negotiation. BATNAs allow you to negotiate with confidence.

Remember, the worst thing they can say is “no.”

If you never ask, you’ll never know.

So, do your research, prepare your ranking system, determine your strongest BATNA, and go get that extra $500,000. Good luck!

This post is one in a series on negotiation. Click here to view all posts on negotiation.

Welcome to Candlelit!

“If you have knowledge, let others light their candles at it.”  – Margaret Fuller

Candlelit was inspired by a quote.

Margaret Fuller was the first American to publish a book on equality for women and the first woman to enter Harvard Library to pursue research. She was a journalist, an author, and a feminist. Her enthusiasm for education and equality changed the course of history.

Candlelit is a business and lifestyle blog for women. It’s a place to share your knowledge with each other and the world.

Let your light shine.