We professors learn a lot from our students, sometimes as much or more than they do from us.
Three years ago, at my first session with the Global MBA at IE Business School, one student, white British and male, pointed out that all the CEOs of the companies to be analyzed over my Strategy course were “male and western”. I undertook the commitment to make the necessary changes in the program that same night.
Interestingly, when I designed my program, I had managed to include cases of European and Latin American companies of different sizes, but none of the key players were women.
That night, a quick search for cases of Strategy with female CEOs provided some interesting results. For example, a recent study by Harvard Business Publishing (HBP) shows that only 11% of the cases of its directory, the most widely used in the world, have a female CEO or director, and that most of them were related to organizational behavior -typically dealing with the glass ceiling syndrome. Under the category General Management or Strategy, I was able to find only a recent case that would fit the themes of my course, related to Ginni Rometty, CEO of IBM, and the launch of the Watson project.
There’s no denying that there are few cases, teaching materials or academic research reflecting diversity in companies, whether gender or otherwise. To a large degree, this reflects the same lack of diversity in companies, where much remains to be done to achieve gender equity, for example in areas related to selection, promotion, compensation and other forms of recognition.