The Center for Gender, Equity, and Leadership was launched yesterday at the Haas School of Business. The center will offer courses, speaker series, consulting projects and research in order to address the lack of diversity and inclusion in the corporate world and at Haas, whose student body is currently 42 percent women.
According to Kellie A. McElhaney, founder of the Center for Gender, Equity, and Leadership, the most significant impact will be made by working with companies to change their strategies and structures.
“At the end of the day, companies are really struggling to hire diversity and inclusion-conversant leaders,” McElhaney said. “They’re going to come to Haas first.”
There are already courses at Haas that address diversity and inclusion. McElhaney offers a course called “The Business Case for Investing in Women,” and added that there is a class on the topic of managing a diverse workforce as well as the student-run series “Difficult Discussions on Race”
McElhaney emphasized that the center will work to include conversations on gender and broader equity in every class at Haas.
“We also want to get cases with female or African American or Latina protagonists in all of our courses,” McElhany said. “If we have a course on venture finance and there are eight speakers, they cannot be all white male speakers.”
Nikita T. Mitchell, founder of Above the Bottom Line and a 2015 graduate of the Haas MBA program, spoke at the launch event. She said her graduating class was 29 percent women, and she was one of the first members of the Gender Equity Initiative, or GEI, which began as a group of women having lunch together and sharing their classroom and corporate experiences.
The GEI originally met with the dean to establish the goal of having 40 percent women in the student body by 2020.
“I think having a designated space (the Center for Gender, Equity, and Leadership) signals the importance of something so it accelerates all the things already being done on campus about this issue. … It gives it space, it gives it resources, and it gives it more momentum,” Mitchell said.
Tiffany Lee, a full-time MBA student and a member of the GEI, said that she noticed that, stereotypically, women do not raise their hands as much as men in core classes.
Lee added that men should take proactive opportunities to learn about the benefits of diversity and inclusion in business, as well as the country’s changing demographics.
“We are graduating a thousand business leaders every year, which are men and women of every gender, color, identity, race and ethnicity,” McElhaney said. “(Our goal) is that they go out with this gender equity fluency in the world, equipped and ready and courageous enough to create change.”