WSA Academic Initiative Survey

This November, the WSA conducted a survey of the women at HBS to better understand areas of academic concern and to enable the WSA to articulate a set of comprehensive solutions to improve the learning environment for women at HBS.

Numbers tell a story. At the very least, they point to interesting facts or discrepancies. This fall, the WSA decided to take a hard look at how women are performing academically at HBS, due in part to the fact that we all know one or more of the women who were asked to leave after their RC year in 2008-2009. So we did some investigation and here’s what we found: while women make up 38 percent of the class of 2010, they only represent 23 percent of the First Year Honors recipients…and women made upÿonly 6 percent ofÿtheÿBaker Scholars for theÿclass of 2009.

The more we spoke with women here, the more we realized that there were many issues related to academic performance bubbling below the surface which needed to be brought out, discussed and addressed. The first step in the process was the WSA Academic Initiative Survey, which we undertook in early November.
Objectives of the Survey:
(1) Understand, if any, the areas of concern faced by female students in the HBS learning environment.
(2) Enable female students to voice their requests for help, and help the WSA articulate a set of comprehensive solutions/action steps to improve the learning environment for women at HBS.

All EC and RC women students at HBS were sent an electronic survey and all the responses were anonymous.

– Total number of women students at HBS: 679 (342 RC and 337 EC).
– Total base of respondents for this study: 413ÿ(214 RC and 199 EC).

Status of the Survey:
The WSA is currently analyzing the results and sharingÿthemÿwith a number of senior associate deans. We will hold a qualitative focus group this semester and a townhall meeting with HBS students next semester to share the results and action steps in depth.
Ruhana Hafiz (OA) is Co-Director of Academics for the WSA along with Farnaz Kadkhodaian (OA). Having been given, and having made use of education opportunities not typically accessible to Bangladeshi women, she is passionate about women’s empowerment in any setting. She is leading the WSA Academic Initiative Survey project, and she welcomes any comments/suggestions regarding how the WSA can help improve women’s learning environment at HBS. She can be contacted at

December 7, 2009
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