Kennedy School Gender Ratio Makes Historic Shift

For the first time in the school’s history, the incoming class of the Kennedy School of Government’s (KSG) largest program has a slim majority of female students—a number administrators say is a result of new initiatives aimed specifically at women.

Women will comprise 52 percent of next year’s Master in Public Policy (MPP) program. Before this year, no more than 49 percent of the school’s MPP class has been female.

Additionally, 42 percent of those who accepted admission to the MPP program are minority students, with blacks comprising 14 percent of the incoming class and Hispanic students making up 15 percent.

Over the last three years, minority students have averaged 40 percent of the MPP class, according to KSG Associate Dean Joe McCarthy.

“These numbers represent a significant achievement for the Kennedy School,” KSG Dean Joseph S. Nye said in a press release. “All of our students benefit tremendously by diversity in the classroom, and indeed, the quality of our academic scholarship benefits as well.”

McCarthy said recent efforts to highlight the Kennedy School as an attractive choice for women contributed to the increased percentage of female students.

The Kennedy School recently began a number of new programs explicitly for women, including the Council of Women World Leaders directed by Laura Liswood, and the Women and Public Policy Program led by Ambassador Swanee Hunt.

“We’ve tried to demonstrate that this place is affirming and welcoming to women,” McCarthy said. “It might not always have seemed that way.”

He said the KSG has also been bringing in more women speakers at the ARCO forum.

It also launched the first ever women’s policy journal, which recently released its second issue.

“There are more opportunities for women to connect with each other on campus, and to have conversations about what it’s like to work in a predominantly male environment,” Hunt said.

In the past three years, Nye said he has overseen a shift in admissions focus to commitment to public service, unusual background, and leadership in addition to academic accomplishment.

“For example, we might take a student with slightly weaker scores, who had worked in the Peace Corps, or Teach for America, or on a presidential campaign,” McCarthy said.

He said the policy might account for the increase in minority and female students.

With a total of 198 students in the entering class, the MPP program is the Kennedy School’s largest program.

The Masters in Public Administration/International Development Program, has also shown an increase in female students for next year as well; statistics are not yet available for the school’s other Master’s Programs.

“Dean Nye and Dean McCarthy have expressed steady commitment to advancing the role of women,” said Hunt. “This did not happen by accident.”

—Staff writer Ishani Ganguli can be reached at ganguli@fas.harvard.edu.