Pace Magazine

A Unique Case Study: Gender Representation

July 10, 2024
Pace University students talking to each other in a lounge.

“I’m looking at the population of students and wanting to see them reflected in the case studies that professors ask them to analyze. It came out of a place of anger and frustration, but where it’s going, is this idea of how we can represent the real world.”

Lubin’s Ivan Fox Scholar and Professor of Law Jessica Magaldi, JD, has spent her professional academic career at the intersection of business and law, traditionally a male-dominated realm. This dichotomy, however, is changing, both on the undergraduate and graduate levels. According to a 2021 study conducted by the Forte Foundation, more than half of business schools now report 40% or more women enrolled. And another study concluded that today’s MBA programs are much closer to gender parity, with 14 of the top business schools having achieved women’s enrollment of at least 45% in their full-time programs, as compared to 27% two decades ago.

Certain aspects of business education however, are in need of an update.

As a 2023–2024 Faculty Fellow at Pace’s Wilson Center for Social Entrepreneurship, Magaldi has been assessing the gender inclusiveness of case studies. Through her research project, An Examination of How Business School Case Studies Reflect Gender Diversity in Educating Future Business School Graduates, Magaldi and her co-authors are examining the representation of women as protagonists and antagonists in case studies over the past two decades, as well as the gender of case study authors.

What exactly then, are case studies? Broadly defined as narratives and stories that facilitate discussion about a particular issue, case studies are a primary source of curriculum material in business school. As per MIT’s Sloan School of Management, “Case studies give students the chance to be in the shoes of a protagonist. With the help of context and detailed data, students can analyze what they would and would not do in a particular situation, why, and how.”

Through her status as a former board member at the Society of Case Research a journal reviewer, and a case study author herself, Magaldi had a front row seat to how these studies are created. Reviewing case studies, she noticed a continual lack of women’s representation—sometimes conspicuously so. After a particularly egregious example, which was also incorrect on the law, Magaldi and her co-authors decided to take matters into their own hands.

“We all think these this is a worthy goal—wanting to have the materials we use in the classroom, particularly real world examples, to be representative of the real world. While 50% of our students are women, we don’t have anything near 50% of case studies featuring women,” says Magaldi.

Magaldi is still in the process of collecting and analyzing results, but so far has gathered that case studies have about twice as many male characters as women, and that there were no significant year-over-year changes in representation despite the major gains of women enrollment over the past two decades. She also uncovered that when the team of authors is all men, 49% of the protagonists were men, but when the team was all female, only 17% of the protagonists were women.

Overall, Magaldi is excited to continue this work and raise awareness about this discrepancy in order to better reflect the composition of today’s student body, and help promote a more equitable classroom experience that encourages and inspires the business leaders of tomorrow.

“The idea is that if we use case studies to portray the real world, do they?"

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