Cynthia Ingols Brings Female Protaganists into Business School Classrooms

August 24, 2015

Cynthia Ingols

Professor Ingols talks about her work writing and reviewing case studies and her effort to provide students with female role models.

Nearly 80% of all case studies used in business schools worldwide are developed by Harvard Business School faculty -- and only 10% of their cases have focused on female protagonists. While the school has set a goal to double that number to 20% by 2019, women remain underrepresented in business cases.

Simmons School of Management (SOM) professor Cynthia Ingols is on a mission to change that.

Ingols is a professor and organizational consultant, as well as a researcher, writer, and reviewer of cases. In the past, she managed the research and case writing staff at Harvard Business School, then a group of about 55 writers and researchers. Since then, she has created numerous cases featuring women, including Simmons’s own Helen Drinan, and incorporates these cases into her courses in the Simmons School of Management. Ingols is working on two cases this summer: Acarna’s Voice, written by a group of SOM students and now alumnae, and Refusing to Join the “Looting Bandwagon.”

“It’s just fascinating to sit down and listen to people’s stories,” says Ingols. “You begin to form an image of what goes on in an organization and how people work together. When we write a case, we visit the organization and observe the space. It can be time-consuming and it’s hard work, but it’s very illuminating.

Ingols is currently a track chair for the North American Case Research Association (NACRA). She is evaluating eleven cases from across the globe, and will attend the NACRA conference in Orlando, Florida in October. Ingols is also a guest editor for a special female-focused issue of the Case Research Journal, a prestigious academic journal that features the best current cases, which will be published in late 2016.

“When you write a good case, you want students to identify with the protagonists. You want them to feel like they can walk in her shoes,” says Ingols. “By focusing on protagonists who are women and women of color, I hope to help female students see themselves in the cases, see that they have role models, and see that they, too, can do what the protagonists have done.” Ingols’ cases have been used in undergraduate courses, the MBA programs at Simmons, and executive education programs.

Article written by Shannon Fitzgerald '16