The Case for Women conducts ongoing research into the presence and portrayal of women in prominent business school case papers.

We record and analyse the gender balance of characters present in competition-winning papers awarded by the Case Centre. We consider how our future corporate leaders are impacted by the extensive use of gender-biased teaching material.



As a Masters EMCCC student at INSEAD, Lesley noticed the lack of females present in the case study papers. This lead her to complete her highly-acclaimed Master's thesis 'Where are the Women Leaders? Invisible selves: writing women leaders into business school case papers'. With seven years of research collated to date, the picture hasn't changed much since her years at INSEAD. Lesley aims to increase the presence of females in case papers by publicising her research and supporting business schools and corporations who wish to effect change in their organisations.

The Symons Test

Lesley adapted the Bechdel Test to analyse the cases in her research. The Bechdel Test is used to measure the active presence of female characters in Hollywood films. The test is:

“One, it has to have at least two women in it, who, Two, talk to each other about, Three, something besides a man.”

Lesley renamed her version the Symons Test, with the rule being that a case:

“One, it has to have one woman in it, who, Two, is in a leadership position (the protagonist in this research), Three, who talks to another woman about the business.”

Latest Research

Our most recent research looks at women's presence in award-winning and best-selling case papers from 2009 - 2015. Published in Harvard Business Review in March 2016, you can find the full article here: Only 11% of Top Business School Case Studies Have a Female Protagonist

Case Papers with Female Protagonists

See the links below for cases with females as the lead. We'd love to add more cases to our collection. If you would like to submit a case paper with a female protagonist then please use our Contact Form to send us the details.

IKEA's Global Sourcing Challenge: Indian Rugs and China Labor (A)        (Ref no: 9-906-414)

Zara (Ref no: 603-002-1)

The Body Shop International (Ref no: 9-392-032)

Charlotte Beers at Ogivly & Mather Worldwide (A) (Ref no: 9-495-031)

United Cereal: Lori Brill's Eurobrand Challenge (Ref no: 4269)

Infinity Bank (A): Retail Branches and Customer Profitability (Ref no: 106-016-1)

New Heritage Doll Company: Capital Budgeting (Ref no: 4212)

Levendary Cafe: The China Challenge (Ref no: 4357)

Dove: Evolution of a Brand (Ref no: 9-508-047)

These case papers can be ordered from The Case Centre by following the link here.

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