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Straight Shooter: Indian American Professor Sues Babson College for Alleged Gender and Racial Discrimination – American Kahani



Lakshmi Balachandra, an associate professor of entrepreneurship at Babson College is suing the business school in Wellesley, Massachusetts, of alleged gender and racial discrimination, the Boston Globe reported. The Indian American is currently on leave for a fellowship at the National Science Foundation. She is seeking unspecified damages.

In the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court in Boston last week, Balachandra accused the college of favoring “white and male faculty,” adding that it “predominantly reserves awards and privileges for them,” according to the Boston Globe. She said she “lost career opportunities and faced economic losses, emotional distress, and harm to her reputation because of mistreatment and administrators’ failure to investigate her concerns,” the report added.

She claims in the Feb. 27 complaint that Andrew Corbett, a professor and former chair of the college’s entrepreneurship division, discriminated against her. Corbett oversaw “teaching assignments, class scheduling, and annual reviews,” the Globe reported, adding that “despite her requests to teach electives, he only allowed her to teach required courses in entrepreneurship.” She also alleged in the complaint that “Corbett often lost his temper with her and other female colleagues,” the report said.

The lawsuit mentioned that Balachandra had taught such classes previously at MIT Sloan School of Management and Harvard Business School, the report added. Additionally, she said in the lawsuit that “despite her research record, expressed interest, and service to the college, she was denied numerous leadership positions and opportunities for more time to conduct research and write.”

Her attorney, Monica Shah, told the Globe that her client had “repeatedly raised formal concerns at Babson and also filed a charge of discrimination with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination.”

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Babson, told the Globe that the college is aware of the legal complaint. “The college is home to a diverse global community where equity and inclusion are valued and incorporated across every facet of campus, and where discrimination of any kind is not tolerated,” the spokesperson said in a statement sent to the daily. “Babson takes concerns or complaints seriously and has well-established protocols and resources in place to thoroughly investigate and address them. We look forward to addressing this through the legal process.”

Before joining Babson College, Balachandra was a visiting assistant professor of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Northeastern University in Boston, and a lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management and the Harvard Extension School.

Balachandra has previously spoken about the bias and discrimination she faced at Babson. In September 2021, she told The Boston Globe reporter Katie Johnston that the way her students perceived her was obvious during the pandemic when students began complaining about her. She said she realized that “the students already have the ‘college kids think they know everything bias,’ and they really don’t want to be challenged by a woman of color.”

She continued: “With Indian women, there’s this expectation that we’re subservient and quiet and obedient,” she told Johnston. “But I’m a pretty straight shooter. I don’t mince words. I think it usually isn’t a problem because I try not to say things in an angry tone. But also feel people are surprised at how outspoken I am because it goes against their expectations of Indian women.”

She said she knows she’s “a good teacher,” having taught at Harvard Business School and MIT, “with great reviews.” But when she came to Babson, she started “getting mediocre, even bad reviews.” She said she’s become “acutely aware of how students perceive me when I walk into a room, compared to the white men next to me.”

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She recalled being “the only Indian girl in Needham” growing up. “When you grow up being the ‘only,’ you want to fit in,” she said. “I felt the need to squelch differences as opposed to celebrating them. Indian parents also put a lot of pressure on their kids. You have to be nice. Anything you do that goes wrong, it’s assumed to be your fault. And I carry that with me to this day.”

It was around that time that she “started thinking about the importance of broader representation in town government,” and ran or the town’s Select Board. Marcus Nelson, a Black man, also was running, and we won the two open seats in April. We are the first people of color ever elected in a town established in 1711.

She was a co-author of the Diana Report, 2014, “the first comprehensive analysis of venture capital investments in women entrepreneurs since 1999,” according to her Babson profile. Most recently, she was the lead author on a study with Bank of America “exploring the gender bias experienced by successful women entrepreneurs who have achieved over $5 million in revenue,” the profile said. The paper, entitled “Beyond the Bucks: Growth Strategies of Successful Women Entrepreneurs,” was published in October 2019 the profile said, and “received significant media attention for the groundbreaking findings of the study.”

Her research has been published in several leading journals, and her work has received a wide press coverage. She is the founder of the Women’s Venture Capital Network, the first network of its kind in the country where she organized, created and managed numerous networking events and educational panels for women professionals in the industry.

Before joining Babson College, she was a visiting assistant professor of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Northeastern University in Boston, and a lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management and the Harvard Extension School. She has also taught at Boston College and UCSD Rady’s School of Management.

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