The Harvard-Radcliffe Program in Business Administration: 1956 - 1962

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A Growing Partnership

Acknowledging an awareness of the changing role of women in business, Harvard University announced in 1955 that Radcliffe's Management Training Program would become the Harvard-Radcliffe Program in Business Administration (HRPBA). This name change, the University explained, "was undertaken to meet more effectively the growing demand for women in administrative positions."12 With the exception of New York University, HRPBA boasted the greatest number of female students in business administration. Individuals like Margaret Earhart, an activist for workers' rights as well as a faculty member, helped to sustain the program with her financial support.

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Dudley Meek, a publishing executive, became director. He led a review and revision of the curriculum, resulting in full-year courses in marketing, control (accounting and statistics), production, human problems in administration, finance, and economics.13 The well-known Written Analysis of Cases course was also added. The HRPBA curriculum had many similarities to the Harvard Business School MBA program. Weekly evening lectures featured business leaders, who discussed with students the problems they encountered in their own organizations.

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HRPBA continued to grow, and students enrolled from all over the United States as well as Canada, England, Sweden, Turkey, South Africa, Korea, and India. They included graduates from Radcliffe, Wellesley, Smith, and Mount Holyoke Colleges, Stanford University, and the University of Michigan. Promotional literature featured the job experiences of the program's alumnae to illustrate the range of career opportunities available to women.

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"The Program aims to establish those basic understandings and analytical abilities which will help the graduate adjust quickly to the demands of her job," the 1956 - 1957 course catalogue noted, "and, with application, advance as opportunity permits to higher levels of responsibility."14 Many HRPBA graduates found employment in administrative positions in manufacturing firms, financial institutions, schools, and colleges. A 1958 article in Mademoiselle reported that graduates of the program "are being hired for jobs that till recently were considered strictly male territory."15

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In 1959, graduates of the Harvard-Radcliffe Program in Business Administration could apply for admission to the second year of Harvard Business School MBA program. Three women took advantage of this new opportunity, joining the MBA class of 1960. Men and women now attended classes together. "Harvard is reconciled. Women are here to stay—in business," the May 13, 1959 Wall Street Journal noted of the change. The transition for those entering the second-year MBA program at HBS did not prove altogether seamless. Barbara Hackman Franklin, (MBA 1964) who later became U.S. Secretary of Commerce from 1992 to 1993, remembered, "HBS was a real culture shock. Some faculty were opposed to having women in the classroom. So were some students."16

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HBS Dean Stanley F. Teele asserted, "It cannot be said that women are being placed widely in top management positions, nor will they be in the near future, but greater numbers of them are being used as administrative assistants to top management men in all the functions of business management."17 Most graduates worked as department heads or assistants to a senior executive in fields related to what they had studied. During late 1950s and early 1960s, as the country was experiencing tremendous economic growth, the employment rates for graduates of the program grew to 75 percent or more for both single and married graduates. Statistics showed a rising number of married women returning to work after their children became of school age.18

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When HRPBA ended in 1963, 1,200 alumnae had gone through the program, and many reflected on its value. Betty Diener (HRPBA 1963, MBA 1964, DBA 1974) believed that for that time the program had given had given the students a "voice"; if they had only gone to HBS she said, "we never would have spoken up, we never would have been recognized for our ideas, and we never would have gained that sort of self-confidence."19