Men At Top Business Schools Tackle Sexism
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When Christopher Skayne witnessed a senior manager trying to set up junior female employees with the boss's friends on a regular basis, he was taken aback. At 24-years-old, it was the first time he saw up close how deep sexism runs in corporate America. But it was a conversation with his future fiancee that convinced him he could help make things better.
"I'd tell her these stories and she'd say, 'Think about what's going on here. There's a person who's trying to be professional, really trying to do a good job and here's the senior leader doing this trying to set her up on dates right after the meeting," recalls Skayne, now 28 and a recent graduate of University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, where he went on to help lead the school's "male ally" program. It's known as the "22's," a reminder of the .22 cent wage gap between what women and men earn on the dollar. The group wears "22" t-shirts around campus advocating for equality and they ask all the male students to sign a pledge to stand up against gender bias in the classroom and in the corporate world. Skayne believes raising awareness among well-intentioned men can go a long way to level the playing field on campus and off.
"I just saw this as a way maybe to raise awareness among people who, if they knew it was going on, would act differently and act more conscious of this issue," he said.Dan Ingram
As classes kick off this fall, men at Wharton and others enrolled in some of the most prestigious MBA programs in the U.S. will be asked to sign the male ally pledge . The student-led effort originated at University of California Berkeley's Haas School of Business, where recent graduate Patrick Ford and his classmate Mike Matheson launched a male ally group called "Manbassadors" in 2015.
"I believe that as men, it's our responsibility to become more aware of our unconscious biases around gender, learn ways to mitigate this conditioning, and take action in to address unintentional discrimination," says Ford who created the pledge and since graduating in May, is now working to pilot male ally programs in companies around the country.
At Berkeley-Haas, Manbassadors send out a weekly email reminder that includes an anecdote from a current female student, tips and links to research on unconscious bias. They meet for monthly in person "guy talk" sessions where they evaluate what's going on in class and tackle candid questions. They try to catch themselves if they are interrupting or speaking over their female classmates and in some cases, go out of their way to point out when sexism rears its head in class discussions or assignments. Last year close, to a hundred men, more than a third of the class at Haas signed on as Manbassadors according to a report by Berkeley Media.
And they are not alone. In recent years, similar groups have sprouted up on campuses including Stanford, Columbia, University of Michigan and Duke. Fifteen of the 50 most selective MBA programs will have male ally initiatives in place this fall -- up from just a handful since 2013, according to the Forte Foundation, a non-profit that recruits students into top business schools.
Women made up 37% of students entering business schools in 2016 says Forte's CEO Elissa Sangster who credits an eye-opening 2013 New York Times article about Harvard Business School's attempt to engineer gender equality in its classes and curriculum with sparking the male ally movement at other schools.
"2013 is kind of when the first chapter started. Then it slowly grew from there," says Sangster, whose organization has since launched a free online male ally toolkit to guide student groups. But she says as the programs have evolved in the last few years, the men leading the charge have learned to tread lightly.
"The women are not interested in having men come in and save the day. They are wanting them to be part of the conversation," she underscores, "The men usually say they have to not just bolt in and say we're going to figure this out, but to really understand and listen."
At most schools, the male allies work with existing women's business leadership organizations. 27-year-old, Emily Gordon, a second year student at Berkeley-Haas co-leads the Manbassador program at her school with classmate Mark Angel, and says she sees an impact especially on class participation, which is a major portion of students' grades. Gordon, who aspires to work in the tech industry when she graduates next year, says she felt optimistic the first time she noticed an outspoken male classmate draw a professor's attention to a less outgoing female student who had her hand raised.
"It really made me feel good to see someone stick up their hand for someone else to kind of share the attention," remembers Gordon, who worked for a tech startup founded and run by women in New York City before enrolling in the MBA program. She says her female classmates appreciate what Manbassadors are trying to do and hope it extends beyond graduation.
"I've had some really strong male role models and mentors in both my work and personal life. I think bringing men into the conversation is a really critical piece of the puzzle of moving this issue along and bringing us towards a more equitable world and workplace," she says.
Last Updated June 13, 2018