Dean Rich Lyons Participates in White House Working Families Summit

Dean Rich Lyons was among 14 top b-school leaders who met at the White House last Thursday to share insights on how higher business education can help improve conditions for women–and families–in the workplace.

The deans met with Obama's economic advisors, who are preparing for a June summit on working families. The group also included the heads of Harvard Business School, Kellogg School of Management, and Yale School of Management.

"It was fascinating—1.5 hours, 14 deans," Lyons said. "I came away with tons ideas for follow-ups at Haas to sharpen how we are cultivating the next generation of leaders."

The President’s team will compile a set of best practices and promising experiments to distribute back to the attendees and leaders of other universities. The goal is to create a document with a set of goals that business school deans can sign onto.

Thursday's conversation centered not only on gender balance, but also on recognizing women's crucial role in driving the economy and how business schools can help move the needle on the number of women in senior leadership rolls.

Lyons said the discussion ranged from big-picture topics such as the definition of leadership and research on gender and ethical judgment, to concrete measures such as mentoring programs and helping both male and female alumni on post-family workplace re-entry. B-school graduates will need the skills to balance their own lives with work, and manage others who need flexibility.

Lyons told the Wall Street Journal that research on gender issues, which is strong at Haas, is important for getting our faculty even more comfortable addressing these issues in the classroom. He has also been a proponent of using technology to increase flexibility both in the workplace and in business education, with, for example, hybrid on-campus/online programs.

Haas faculty members are trailblazers for women in leadership. As chair of the Federal Reserve, Professor Emeritus Janet Yellen is now the most powerful woman in U.S. history—and one of the most powerful women in the world. Professor Ulrike Malmendier was named as the top finance scholar under 40 last year. And Professor Laura Tyson, former dean and the first woman to hold two top presidential advisory positions, is a leading champion on rethinking the role of business in society.