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Harvard Business School Loves Women Candidates

2013 marked the 50th anniversary of Harvard Business School first admitting women to their program.

Given the stats today, it’s hard to believe that prior to 1963, women were not admitted to the business school at Harvard. Forty-three percent of HBS’s Class of 2018 are women, a far cry from the handful of eight women who bravely enrolled in the inaugural class.

In recent years, HBS has been consistently investing in strategic programs to grow its female applicant pool, hoping to bring this number up further. There has never been a better time to apply to Harvard as a woman.

Harvard Business School Loves Women Candidates

Of course, that doesn’t mean that admission is less competitive for female candidates. But it does mean the school is committed to diversity across the board, and gender diversity is a kind of diversity that has taken central stage at HBS. In the words of HBS’s dean, Nitin Nohria:

My hope is that by learning how to create genuine equality when it comes to gender, we’ll also learn how to do it around race and ethnicity and sexual preferences or orientation and all of those other dimensions of diversity that are no less important, where there’s also evidence of systematic bias or unconscious bias.

Importantly, HBS isn’t just talking the talk. Here are five things the school has done to reinforce its commitment to women.

1. Peek Weekend

In 2015, HBS launched Peek Weekend, a program designed to give women, especially those from women’s colleges, a glimpse into HBS’s MBA program.

During Peek Weekend, participants live on campus, attend case method classes, and meet with students and alumni. This immersive experience is intended to draw women applicants by showing them what being a part of HBS’s MBA program is like.

This year, Peek Weekend’s scope is expanding to include both women and men. There are now three ways to qualify:

– Attending a women’s college

– Majoring in a STEM discipline

– Coming from a family-owned business background

2. HBX CORe 

HBX CORe is an online program from HBS that covers basic business ideas. It’s built around three main courses – Business Analytics, Economics for Managers, and Financial Accounting.

According to HBX CORe, the program is “designed to introduce you to the language of business.” As a result, it can be used as a stepping stone from a non-business background to an MBA.

While CORe isn’t a program designed specifically to recruit women, it’s proven to be a good feeder for women applicants. For example, 41 percent of Harvard College students enrolled in HBX CORe’s inaugural class were women.

3. Women’s Events

HBS holds a number of events for woman applicants. These include information sessions for women and the Women Making Impact Open House.

The school’s Women’s Student Association also hosts a series of brown bag lunches. Less formal than the open house and information sessions, these give women applicants a chance to meet current students on campus.

If you can’t make it to one of these events in person, not to worry – HBS regularly puts on webinars, some of which are specifically for women. As of this writing, the next Women’s Association webinar is on December 7, 2016, and registration is open.

4. Executive Education

 HBS’s efforts to bring more women onto campus don’t begin and end with the MBA program. The school also offers executive education programs designed to help women advance their careers.

For example, the Women’s Leadership Forum brings together a group of woman business leaders to study advanced management techniques. The program includes classroom discussions, meeting in small groups, and personal coaching.

5. HBS Gender Initiative

Besides offering more programs designed to attract female applicants, HBS’s leadership has been vocal about the need to address systemic biases and challenge stereotypes that work against women in business.

To this end, the school launched its Gender Initiative in 2015, a project that promotes research on gender.

For example, some of the first research the Gender Initiative released showed that children may in fact fare better when they have working mothers. More generally, the Initiative intends to explore “how gender affects all of our lives, livelihoods and workplaces.”

From ambitious projects like the Gender Initiative to concrete changes in the admissions process like holding more events for female applicants, HBS has been rethinking the role gender plays in its program in a variety of different ways recently.

No doubt the work isn’t done. But with all the changes that have been made in the past few years, one thing’s for sure: this is a better time to apply to HBS as a woman than ever before!