So let me get this straight.
There is an online dating service that features Harvard men. There is free access on the site for Harvard men. This same dating website charges non-Harvard women a fee to sign up for the site to have access to Harvard men. Harvard women, conversely, cannot sign up for the site, because you are not Harvard men. To add another perk – you get a free dinner if you are one of the first 500 members to sign up for the site, and of course, you are Harvard men.
The site for, you guessed it, for Harvard men, is called Date Harvard Square or dateHarvardsq.com.
Now, I know what you are thinking – this is the greatest thing to happen to the Kwama Sutra since I learned how to do the “Macarena” in 7th grade. Sign me up, right?
According to its website, the Date Harvard Square founders have, “Created this first-of-its-kind online dating community while studying at Harvard Business School to connect male Harvard graduate students, undergraduate students and alumni with amazing women from around the world.”
Equally exciting are the members of Harvard’s female community, right?
The site continues, “We developed our idea for DateHarvardSQ after realizing that all too often, our friends, classmates and alumni were sacrificing romance for their educations and careers. So we set out to create a simple, easy-to-use platform that makes an enduring relationship a reality for these men, as well as for the women who would otherwise not have the opportunity to meet them.”
Rarely do I use this space to critique things (other than myself), but this subject deserves a few words.
Indeed, the notion of paying to become associated with men of a certain pedigree is an interesting concept, but it’s totally flawed (and pretty demeaning) to assume that non-Harvard women are willing to pay a premium to access Harvard men, while non-Harvard men wouldn’t do the same for Harvard women. To exclude Harvard women is like excluding a straw when purchasing a milk shake. Sure, you can drink the milkshake, but it’s going to end up all over your face, and you, subsequently, will embarrass yourself.
The Harvard Crimson (or as I call it, the Harvard paper WITHOUT the Kwama Sutra) already took the founders of DateHarvardSq to task. They argued the website reinforced sexist stereotypes and demeaned both non-Harvard women and Harvard men.
Yet, the founders of this site rebuked these so obvious critiques. Alas, they note: “We hope to introduce functionality for Harvard women and same sex couples in early 2011.”
So, there you go. Problem solved. No harm – no foul, right. Unless any female readers had to get setup during the calendar year 2010 (for fear of turning into a pumpkin or something), help is soon on the way.
Yet, seeing as the site was founded by business school students, there are a few other problems we’d like them to defend.
The first being, what limitations were in fact in place that prohibited the site from offering similar services to women? Is the cap ex too high to include the letters “W” and “O” on promotional materials? Is there a java code that blows up when you include the text “Harvard” and “women” next to each other?
Yes, Ray Weaver gave me a 2 in marketing, but all of the aspects of the site seem to easily fit into a gender neutral box. Well, except for the title of the site, dateHarvardSq, definitely makes me think of Harvard men who are looking for non Harvard women. So, I guess once they had a name like that they couldn’t be general neutral and thus had to exclude women.
Yet, the founders have more responses, “We rolled out to Harvard men first because this is a community we know well, having been part of it while studying at Harvard Business School.”
I guess I see this point too. Since you don’t know the Harvard female community, particularly the Harvard women dating community, you did not include it. Sounds fine to me. Except, why in the world, would I want to go to a dating site by men who didn’t understand the female community at Harvard? Don’t you want the creators of your dating site to be good at dating themselves, or at least, know the dating community “well”? I mean, you expect it of your dating columnists.
I could continue, but my point here should be clear: try harder. We live in 2010. You went to HBS. To not include women on a site like this, and to brush it off with silly excuses is quite frankly unacceptable.
Part of the Harvard Business School oath is to never decry those in pursuit of making money, but HBS is failing miserably if its students graduate here without awareness of socially cognizant businesses.
I am so sick of companies failing to address socially relevant issues and duck behind the ever elusive theme of time. Whether its major incidents like this summer’s oil spill or more nuanced issues like this one, we have a created a business community that fails to live up to noble standards. Instead, we quickly lose our morals and values all to gain a quick buck. Let’s call a spade a spade. The founders thought they had a better market to pitch Harvard men to non-Harvard women than including Harvard women in the package.
Are they right? To me, at least, it doesn’t really matter.
The founders of the site could have admitted their mistake, included women, and moved on. Yet, they used that word: “time.”
While I think LCA is often a huge waste of time (and clearly not resonating with students), I read “Letters from a Birmingham Jail” last year. One area I agree with the founders of this website, we here at Harvard are a special breed. Subsequently, whether it is in your love, business, or social life, remember HBS how your actions affect the world. Fess up to errors and correct your mistakes. To be an effective leader, excuses like timing simply won’t work.
If we aren’t moving the society in more beneficial ways, who will?