Debora Spar

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New York Times Bestselling Author; Leading Expert on How Technology Shapes Business, Political and Social Structures, Gender Roles and Society; Senior Associate Dean, HBS Online; Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School

Biography

Debora Spar is the MBA Class of 1952 Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School where she teaches the first-year Strategy course. Her current research focuses on issues of gender and technology, and the interplay between technological change and broader social structures. Spar tackles some of these issues in her new book “Work Mate Marry Love: How Machines Shape Our Human Destiny” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, August 2020).

Spar served as the President of Barnard College from 2008 to 2017, and as President and CEO of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts from 2017 to 2018. During her tenure at Barnard, Spar led initiatives to highlight women’s leadership and advancement, including the creation of the Athena Center for Leadership Studies and the development of Barnard’s Global Symposium series.

Before joining Barnard, Spar spent 17 years on the HBS faculty as the Spangler Family Professor in the BGIE unit. She also served as Senior Associate Dean for Faculty Research and Development. During this period, her research primarily explored how political forces shape and constrain market behavior.  She looked in particular at the politics of foreign trade and investment, and developed a second year course entitled Managing International Trade and Investment. In 2001, she published “Ruling the Waves: Cycles of Discovery, Chaos, and Wealth from the Compass to the Internet,” a comprehensive history of commercial technological revolutions that traced the intricate ways in which even the wildest of technological booms are likely, over time, to fall prey to political demands for control and regulation. Spar also studied the specific politics of reproductive science and tracked, in her 2006 book, “The Baby Business,” the emergence of a large (and largely unregulated) commercial market for fertility.  In 2013, Spar published “Wonder Women: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection” (2013), an exploration of how and why women have failed to realize many of feminism’s early promises.

Spar is a member of the Academy of Arts and Sciences and serves as a director of Value Retail LLC and Thermo Fisher Scientific, as well as a trustee of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. She has also served as a Director of Goldman Sachs and a trustee of the Markle and Wallace Foundations. Spar earned her Ph.D. in Government from Harvard University and her B.S. from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service.

Debora Spar is available to advise your organization via virtual and in-person consulting meetings, interactive workshops and customized keynotes through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.

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Spar, Debora

Biography

Debora Spar is the MBA Class of 1952 Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School where she teaches the first-year Strategy course. Her current research focuses on issues of gender and technology, and the interplay between technological change and broader social structures. Spar tackles some of these issues in her new book “Work Mate Marry Love: How Machines Shape Our Human Destiny” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, August 2020).

Spar served as the President of Barnard College from 2008 to 2017, and as President and CEO of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts from 2017 to 2018. During her tenure at Barnard, Spar led initiatives to highlight women’s leadership and advancement, including the creation of the Athena Center for Leadership Studies and the development of Barnard’s Global Symposium series.

Before joining Barnard, Spar spent 17 years on the HBS faculty as the Spangler Family Professor in the BGIE unit. She also served as Senior Associate Dean for Faculty Research and Development. During this period, her research primarily explored how political forces shape and constrain market behavior.  She looked in particular at the politics of foreign trade and investment, and developed a second year course entitled Managing International Trade and Investment. In 2001, she published “Ruling the Waves: Cycles of Discovery, Chaos, and Wealth from the Compass to the Internet,” a comprehensive history of commercial technological revolutions that traced the intricate ways in which even the wildest of technological booms are likely, over time, to fall prey to political demands for control and regulation. Spar also studied the specific politics of reproductive science and tracked, in her 2006 book, “The Baby Business,” the emergence of a large (and largely unregulated) commercial market for fertility.  In 2013, Spar published “Wonder Women: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection” (2013), an exploration of how and why women have failed to realize many of feminism’s early promises.

Spar is a member of the Academy of Arts and Sciences and serves as a director of Value Retail LLC and Thermo Fisher Scientific, as well as a trustee of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. She has also served as a Director of Goldman Sachs and a trustee of the Markle and Wallace Foundations. Spar earned her Ph.D. in Government from Harvard University and her B.S. from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service.

Debora Spar is available to advise your organization via virtual and in-person consulting meetings, interactive workshops and customized keynotes through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.

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Recommendations

Advance Praise for “Work Mate Marry Love”

“Thought-provoking . . . Spar’s explanations of how specific technologies developed are lucid and insightful. Readers will take comfort in this clear-eyed assessment of humanity’s ability to adapt to technological change.”

―Publishers Weekly

“Throughout history, technological change has reordered our lives, including its most intimate aspects. In this powerful account of 8,000 years of human development, Debora L. Spar traces how first settled agriculture, then the steam engine, and eventually the mid-twentieth century revolutions of cars, modern household appliances, and the pill transformed work and family patterns, production and reproduction. This dazzling and fast-paced guide to a new world in the making will make you recoil at times. Yet by unsentimentally historicizing the most intimate aspects of our lives, Spar’s big-picture book opens up new vistas for understanding the most consequential changes of our times.”

― Sven Beckert, Laird Bell Professor of American History at Harvard University and author of “Empire of Cotton”

“Based on thousands of years of history, Debora Spar convincingly argues that the major changes we are seeing in the technologies of biology and artificial intelligence are about to change how we think of ourselves and our places in society in fundamental ways. More than thought-provoking, this is a book that will make you examine why you are the way you are.”

― James Waldo, Gordon McKay Professor of the Practice of Computer Science and Chief Technology Officer at Harvard University

“A fascinating read. Equal parts history and imagination, ‘Work Mate Marry Love’ explains how technology always has and always will shape who we are though we are often blind to its true impact. Spar will push you to examine your own experience with tech, and you will wonder where its influence ends and the real you begins.”

― Joanna Coles, former editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan, former chief content officer of Hearst Magazines, and executive producer of The Bold Type

“Debora Spar’s ‘Work Mate Marry Love’ is a beautifully poetic examination of how the technologies we feel we are shaping are actually shaping us. With algorithms mediating every aspect of our lives and robots slipping into our bedrooms, it’s essential reading for anyone exploring what it means to be human at this time of revolutionary change. I couldn’t put it down.”

― Jamie Metzl, bestselling author of “Hacking Darwin” and founder of OneShared.World

“With a fresh and incisive take on how technology has long shaped our relationships with work and with each other, Debora Spar mines the past to show us where we are going next. “Work Mate Marry Love” is a sweeping, fascinating journey that tells us what we need to know now to be prepared for the next inevitable wave of change.”

―Patrick J. McGinnis, author of “Fear of Missing Out” and host of the podcast FOMO Sapiens

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