Harvard Business School launches Race, Gender, and Equity Initiative

Harvard University from Esteves at Harvard Business School with The Charles River to the left.

Harvard University. Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff Photographer

3 min read

Harvard Business School (HBS) announced today the formation of the Race, Gender, and Equity Initiative, which is both a renaming of the Gender Initiative and a reflection of work it has done and will do to understand and advance equality, including racial equality, in organizations and business. The role of the initiative, much like the Gender Initiative before it, will be to catalyze and translate cutting-edge research to transform practice, enable leaders to drive change, and eradicate gender, race, and other forms of inequality in business and society.

“It’s a particularly opportune moment for this transition,” noted Dean Srikant Datar. “Two years ago the School announced its Advancing Racial Equity action plan, which advocated for the formation of this initiative as well as the launch of an Office for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion to be led by our first chief diversity and inclusion officer. These two new entities will be important pillars — spurring work both inside Harvard Business School and with alumni and other business leaders in a range of organizations and settings.”

Although the work of the Gender Initiative was never limited to gender alone, it was an anchor point for the initiative’s launch and early years. Theinitiative was established during the 2014-15 academic year, following the School’s commemoration of 50 years of women at HBS. At the time, there were a number of faculty publishing important new research on gender and a vibrant conversation about gender inequality, and what research activities might fuel advances in the field.

The new name better reflects the work undertaken by the initiative, going back to some of its earliest conferences as well as more recent eventsprojects, and collaborations, comments director Colleen Ammerman.

“As an initiative, we are ‘research-fueled,’ and research on race and other areas of inequality like social class and sexual orientation has expanded since the initiative’s launch. It makes sense that our name aligns with that current state,” Ammerman explained. “We hope this change helps us to engage effectively with leaders and organizations working to advance diversity and equity.”

“We are calling out race and gender as two important axes of inequality the School is committed to addressing, but also want to be clear that other areas are being, and will continue to be, taken up by the School and its faculty,” noted Robin Ely, the Diane Doerge Wilson Professor of Business Administration and faculty chair of the initiative. “Our faculty pursue research in a wide range of fields related to equity, creating knowledge that helps leaders drive change in their organizations and the world.”

This year, the initiative will be partnering with the Institute for Business in Global Society (BiGS). The institute provides a research-based platform to address critical business and societal issues, and the Race, Gender, and Equity Initiative will work closely with this year’s cohort of BiGS Fellows, scholarly researchers who join the School to work on specific projects related to issues of business and society.