Today, a disturbing visit to the class of 1965. The
University of Houston's College of Engineering
presents this series about the machines that make
our civilization run, and the people whose
ingenuity created them.
has just done an article on the Harvard Business
School's class of 1965. Eight women finally broke
the Harvard gender barrier in 1963. All eight
finished their MBA's in '65. Considering that some
190 male members of the class did not finish, that
was a remarkable showing.
Of course, they'd been carefully hand-picked. When
Harvard integrated women into its MBA program, it
didn't intend to fail. Now Forbes
looks up those pioneers to see how they've fared.
The first woman admitted was Elaine Luthy, fresh
out of Stanford. A Boston Globe
headline shouted, "Blond Bomb for Harvard." She
shrugged that off and finished her degree. Then she
found a PR job with Eastern Airlines. But, she
says, she couldn't buy into the values around her.
Things went downhill. She finally gave it up to do
a doctor of divinity degree. Today she runs a
book-indexing service out of her apartment in
The eight women got their first wash of cold water
during job interviews after graduation. It was
clear that interviewers had not come to hire women.
Lynn Sherwood tells about interviewing:
They were polite, ... but you knew it was
futile. They asked questions like, "How do we know
we won't train you and then you'll get married and
Sharon Baum used only her initials when
she signed up. She says:
The guy was so taken aback that you could get
all your points across before he could ask those
One woman became the editor of a trade
magazine, then died at 42. Only two followed straight
career paths. The rest fought losing battles with
social expectations and corporate values.
So I look at pictures of the seven survivors --
women around fifty with good, confident faces --
faces with a dimension of contentment. After all,
these were the best and brightest of 1965. They had
the intellectual and emotional means for coping
with an imperfect world. They were better equipped
than most to forge fruitful lives despite galling
All this drives me to reconstruct what we thought
back in 1965 -- what we took for granted -- our
ideas about gender roles, justice, and social
equity. And I wonder what my sons will be saying
about their own attitudes in the '90s when they're
my age. Will the '90s also look like a stone age?
Dana Linden, writing for Forbes, says
that job opportunities have opened up, but society
hasn't eased any of the pressures it lays upon
women. The choices have become, if anything, harder
to make. Today women are finally allowed to shape
themselves to a male world. But change won't be
complete until we also change the gender of that
corporate world to match the people in it.
I'm John Lienhard, at the University of Houston,
where we're interested in the way inventive minds