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Robin Ely: Harvard Business School's Manbassadors

Harvard Robin Ely at The MAKERS Conference

As the Senior Associate Dean for Culture and Community at Harvard Business School, Robin Ely is leading a culture change initiative to ensure that all members of the HBS community are able to thrive and reach their potential for advancing the mission of the school.

Ely described how, three years ago, Harvard Business School began a multi-year, organization-wide initiative with the goal of creating conditions where all members of the community—students, faculty, and staff–could thrive without compromising excellence.

A gender grade gap existed at Harvard Business School. It raised many questions and concerns for the faculty, not the least, what was causing it: Were they admitting less qualified women? After extensive analyses, they determined that women’s lower grades could not be explained by their qualifications.

For many of Ely's colleagues, that was a turning point. The notion that women were less qualified was no longer tenable. They were forced to look inward, at their own institution. The school decided to create venues for both faculty and students to engage with the findings and consider how to address them. By 2013, women had achieved grade parity with men.

Ely's agenda is "about opening up an honest conversation in the organization, across all members of the organization. The most important members," she declared, "are our students."