Pam Freed, Hee-Won Kang, and Neha Mishra (WG ’14)
Wharton Women in Business Co-Presidents
We are proud to be Wharton women. Women comprise 42% of the student body at Wharton, the highest percentage among top business schools. We lead student organizations that include the PEVC Club, Food Club, Tennis Club, Social Impact Club, and many more. Women represented 30% of the 2012-2013 First Year Honors list, and this year we make up 48% of Leadership Fellows, 45% of Student Life Fellows, 55% of Career Fellows, 50% of Admissions Fellows, and 44% of Nonprofit Board Leadership Fellows.
As Co-Presidents of Wharton Women in Business, we are often asked why WWIB exists or why Wharton doesn’t have a “men in business” club. We exist because women’s place at the table is hardly secure. As many Wharton women know from experience, we still have a long way to go toward gender equality. We earn 77 cents to every man’s dollar and comprise just 4.6% of Fortune 500 CEO and 16.9% of corporate board seats. Misperceptions about women in power— depicted as “bossy” or “bitchy”—are an unfortunate reality that many Wharton women will face, or have already faced, during our careers.
As Wharton MBAs, we are ideally positioned to change these realities. Given this, we were shocked by the disrespectful material in the Wharton Journal’s Valentine’s Day edition, and by our classmates’ decisions to anonymously submit this content. In “The Definitive Guide to Wharton Women,” we were reduced to derogatory stereotypes like the “hyena”, a shrill “gigantic tease”; “Ms. Ring, Ring, Bling, Bling”; and the over-sexed woman “who can be seen with her tongue down someone else’s throat.” In the “Advice for Your Counterparts,” column, Wharton men tell their female peers to “get wild and fun,” “live a little,” and worst of all, “Go to South Street at midnight and pour honey on [your] nipples. If that doesn’t work, I don’t know what will.” At a place like Wharton, how can we let these things be said?
This is not a one-time occurrence. In the Journal’s Follies edition, two senior female professors’ bodies and clothing were sexually scrutinized and Wharton women were degraded as strippers and prostitutes as suggested by, “Sluttiness: Have you taken more ‘poles’ than a marketing research firm? Have you arranged more inputs than a supply chain manager…”
Yes, we know these comments were intended to be “jokes.” And the Valentine’s issue also included offensive stereotypes about men (i.e. “Wharton Douche-O-Meter”), which we don’t condone. But for women, the significance of offensive stereotypes extends well beyond our two years as students and into the workplace. Your female peers at Wharton will continue to have to fend off these very stereotypes, which diminish the level of respect they will command as business leaders. Entrenching negative gender stereotypes in the name of humor is dangerous. Repetition strengthens perceptions, and repeating stereotypes undermines us.
WWIB is working to model positive change at Wharton. We want everyone – men and women – to be aware of how gender impacts perceptions at work. We have made it a top priority to deliver thoughtful content to spark dialogues—to name just a few, we have brought thought leaders like Sallie Krawcheck, Owner of 85 Broads, and Barnard President Debora Spar, and we hosted a film screening of Miss Representation, about the portrayal of women in media. Our next event is on Wednesday, 3/5, when we will screen the film Half the Sky.
Let’s remember why we came to Wharton. The strength of the community here is what sets Wharton apart, and our words and actions should reflect our relentless support for each other. Let’s think twice before we play into stereotypes, and let’s continue to stand up for each other.