What is it about?

Women represent just under 50% of undergraduate business graduates and 36% of MBA graduates. Despite their strong presence in management education programs, women are noticeably absent from business case studies—a key pedagogical tool for instruction within management education programs worldwide. We argue that case studies contain a “hidden curriculum” that presents and reinforces implicit assumptions and stereotypes about women’s fitness to lead. Women protagonists were absent in over 80% of cases, and when present, were portrayed as less visionary, risk-taking, agentic, certain, and more emotional, cautious, quality and detail oriented than men. See the resources section to the right of this paragraph for a short video and infographic that summarize this study.

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Why is it important?

Despite the fact that women graduate from undergraduate business programs in equal proportion to men, they are far less successful at securing their first promotion to a management position. Further, some studies suggest that management education decreases women's beliefs that women can be effective managers. Case studies reinforce these perceptions by stereotyping women's traits and behaviours counter to our perceptions of an effective manager. To be more effective management educators, we need to improve the way in which we represent female business leaders in case studies.


If we are to effectively change management education, we need to take a hard look at the assumptions that drive our teaching, including the idea that our pedagogical materials are "values neutral". I'd like to encourage all professors to consider the ways in which their pedagogical materials represent implicit assumptions about women and how those assumptions influence the way in which women see themselves.

Colleen M. Sharen
Brescia University College

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Invisible or Clichéd: How Are Women Represented in Business Cases?, Organizational Behavior Teaching Review, November 2018, SAGE Publications, DOI: 10.1177/1052562918812154.
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