Ange Winkle, Women’s’ Students Association President and Harbus Contributing Editor, answers your questions about the state of gender equality on campus, and how the WSA and all HBS students can get involved.

Welcome to HBS!

We are writing to introduce you to The Women’s Student Association, Manbassadors and what it means to be a woman or a gender equality ally at HBS. We thought a good way to do that would be to answer some of the questions you might be asking.

Why is there a focus on women and diversity? Wasn’t all of this fixed in 2013/14?

For those who are unaware of the ‘2013/14’ milestone, in that academic year gender inequality at HBS was discussed in detail on the front page of The New York Times (in a similar fashion to the recent furore around Amazon’s workplace culture).

2013/14 was also the year that Dean Nitin Nohria, working with Professor Frances Frei and the HBS faculty and Harvard administration, instituted sweeping changes to address unconscious and conscious gender bias. Changes ranged from introducing scribes in the classroom, to a concerted focus on increasing the number of female protagonists in cases.

In the same year, the WSA introduced the Manbassadors program to bring men into the conversation. The results were impressive. For example, within one-year the underrepresentation of women in the Baker Scholar list disappeared.

You will hear many women from past and present classes tell you they never felt any gender difference. But, clearly,gaps do remain. The representation of women in the Baker Scholars of the Class of 2015 dropped (watch for our article in the September edition of The Harbus). In the workplace men are afforded fewer opportunities to balance work and life. RCs are likely to have only 1-2 female professors out of 10+ in RC year. Only one member of the HBS alpha fund investment board is female.

These examples, and more, are why the HBS student body, the WSA and HBS administration and faculty are continuing the conversation around what gender equality means, and how we can achieve it at HBS and beyond.

HBS has a powerful position in the world of business; actions we take here at Soldiers Field are noticed. We want to use this platform to forge a way forward, not through complaint, but through celebrating the impressive women at HBS and what we can all achieve as equals.

I hear great things about what women from HBS are doing – what is that about?

We’re glad you asked. Our classmate Felicia Pagliuca is working to cure diabetes. Pagliuca is taking leave fromf HBS this year to be Director of Technology & Corporate Development at Semma Technologies, the biotech firm she co-founded, to commercialize the scientific breakthrough she spearheaded. Michelle Zatlyn (HBS ’09) cofounded Cloudflare and is transforming internet performance. Alexa von Tobel took a leave of absence to found LearnVest, a personal finance firm for Millennials (which recently sold for $250million). And last week Marie Claire published an article documenting the domination of the fashion and beauty startup space by HBS women. From Rent the Runway to BaubleBar and Birchbox, in the past 8 years, 18 fashion and beauty startups led by HBS women have raised an aggregate $600 million in funding.

We think these women, and many more, are amazing. However, we still see a gap in the volume of women in entrepreneurship and early stage investing; 2.7% of VC backed companies have a female CEO and just 6% of VCs are women. We want to change that.

What’s more, startups with diverse founding teams perform better. The VC firm First Round Capital recently analyzed its proprietary investment data from the last 10 years and found that investments with at least one female founder were performing 63% better than all-male founding teams. We want to see more startups succeed, which means we want to see more women on founding teams.

On that note… we’d like to introduce Series W.

What is Series W?

We’re pleased to announce the launch of the WSA’s entrepreneurship initiative: Series W, a group dedicated to empowering women entrepreneurs and early stage investors at HBS. Series W will connect those women pursuing bold ideas, be a resource for women with an idea who need help getting it off the ground, and bring together women interested in angel & VC investing.

The goal of Series W is to create a network of talented individuals to support each other, no matter the stage, or series, of their big ideas. We will be holding events throughout the year with current students, alumni, and women in the entrepreneurial world that we admire.

So beyond startups, what else is happening this year?

The WSA and Manbassadors have a full schedule of events and resources to help you connect and succeed at HBS, in whatever you would like to succeed at.

Events include the WSA Welcome Event on September 1st on Felipe’s rooftop, the WSA Retreat on September 11th, and the Dynamic Women in Business Conference (which sells out every year) on February 20th, 2016.

We will be hosting wine & whiskey nights, a squash league, cross-country skiing days, and Cyc classes. Come along to our workshops on everything from from Case Preparation to Debate Training. You can alsoget ad hoc mentoring and advice at our EC panels on topics from ‘How to Make the Most of Your MBA’ to ‘Recruiting Searches’, or you can find an EC mentor through our WSA mentor matching events. And this year we’re expanding the very popular Fireside Chat series; intimate discussions with high profile female leaders.

So what is a Manbassador?

A man who believes in supporting gender equality. A member of the group of more than 300 male HBS students. Any male student who wants to get involved with the mission & objectives of this group.

The Manbassadors’ mission is to actively engage male students and partners at HBS in a productive, ongoing conversation about gender issues. Activities include facilitating section discussions, a Movember Campaign and Living & Working events focused on how couples with two high-powered careers find balance.

HBS Manbassadors are leading the way in a crop of male-led gender equality organizations. Manbassdors have been written up in The Huffington Post as a ‘powerful ray of hope on the possibilities of the future’ and ‘a giant step toward the reality of gender equality’. Recently, Wharton’s 22s – a Manbassadors inspired group of male MBAs at Wharton – were featured in The Washington Post.

The Manbassadors program is still in its infancy; we look forward to welcoming the men of the Class of 2017 to shape its future.

How do I get involved?

Men: Join us for the WSA Welcome Event on September 1st. Become Manbassadors (application details available in September). Run for Manbassador rep in your section. Join us for Series W events to find a co-founder and improve your start-up’s performance!

Women: Come to the WSA Welcome Event on September 1st and the WSA Retreat on September 11th. Join our Board (application details available in September). Join the squash league, or come along for negotiations training.

If you have more questions send us an email at or visit our website at

We look forward to meeting you on campus!

Ange, and The WSA


Originally posted on The Harbus.

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