Research & Publications Page

Most of these publications are from the period of Mary Rowe’s work as an MIT ombudsman, from 1973 to 2014. The articles here reflect some of the concerns and initiatives from her time in the Ombuds Office. Mary Rowe came to MIT in 1973 after working with an Abt Associates team. She and her team helped to found the field of childcare economics; some of that work is mentioned below.

In the early 1970s Rowe wrote a number of articles about what is now called "diversity and inclusion”— about gender roles in families, and about discrimination. In 1973, she supported MIT to become the first, (or one of the first) large organizations to use the term “sexual harassment.” She helped to develop policies and procedures about (all forms of) harassment. She worked with many MIT department heads to help build an early “mentoring framework.” She actively fostered women's networks and supported affinity groups to form and work together. She co-taught Androgyny, a seminar on sex roles, for several years in the 1970s.

Rowe inherited the MIT engineering philosophy of an "integrated systems approach," including the concept of  “redundancy” (fail-safe, back-up, checks and balances) for serious problems. She applied the idea of an integrated approach, with appropriate redundancy, to managing conflict. She further brought this idea to dealing with specific issues, such as research integrity, safety, conflicts of interest, retaliation, deliberate interference with the integrity of the work of others, fear of HIV/AIDS, fear of violence, discrimination and mistreatment. Rowe began writing in the 1970s about the nascent, integrated conflict management system at MIT.

She emphasized the particular importance of a systems approach for dealing with harassment and other forms of discrimination and abusive behavior. Her thesis was, and is, that most people who feel harassed and bullied require informal as well as formal options—and a choice of options—if they are to consider taking action. The same, she believes, is true for responsible bystanders. Many bystanders require a choice of options if they are to act responsibly and effectively.

In several articles Rowe described the importance of establishing a "zero barrier” office—like that of an organizational ombudsman—if a complaint system is to be as effective as possible. A zero barrier office contributes to effectiveness for these reasons among others:

1) To facilitate upward feedback—about all forms of unacceptable behavior—from people who are otherwise afraid to come forward, and

2) To embody a sustained and steady-state attention to ever-recurring problems like racism, gender discrimination, abuse and retaliation, and

3) To help to identify and communicate to managers, about “new” problems and issues, and about exemplary innovations, and

4) To provide “informal and largely invisible” coordination for all the units in a conflict management system.

She has written a number of articles about the work and usefulness of organizational ombuds.

In 1973 Rowe began to build on the 1970s work of Harvard professor (and MIT psychiatrist) Dr. Chester Pierce, on micro-aggressions, racist behavior, and “childism." She extended Pierce’s seminal concept of racist micro-aggressions. The scope of her research widened to include micro-discriminations afflicting all “non-traditional” people in any milieu—whether the behavior was conscious or unconscious. She gave the name micro-inequities to this wider set of discriminatory acts to include the idea that many "inequities," are unfair, even if they were not overtly hostile or intended by the perpetrator.

She began to explore the range of damage caused by micro-inequities. She described some of the damage caused by unconscious bias in addition to intentional discrimination. She documented different kinds of micro-inequities that afflict people of low rank in a hierarchy, men and women of color and different cultures, white women, gays and lesbians, people of different religions, and those with disabilities. In addition she documented micro-inequities toward men in fields traditionally held by women, and toward whites living in cultures where they are the “non-traditional" people.

In describing ways to prevent and deal with micro-inequities, Rowe wrote of the usefulness of "micro-affirmations,” (for example in good mentoring, and in affinity groups) as one way to block one’s own unconscious bias, and to remediate some of the effects of micro-inequities. Since the late 1980s she has written—and helped to produce many videos—about the importance of responsible bystanders in preventing and remediating unacceptable behavior.

In 1985, Rowe began, as have many others, to build on the seminal work of Professors Richard Walton and Robert McKersie on negotiation theory. She joined the MIT Sloan School as a part-time Adjunct Professor, and applied negotiation theory to the field of organizational conflict management. For twenty years Professor Rowe taught a course on Negotiations and Conflict Management at Sloan; (this was one of the first such courses anywhere.)

Rowe retired from the MIT Ombuds Office in 2014 after 41+ years as an organizational ombudsman. She is now an Adjunct Professor at the MIT Sloan School, continuing her research. She continues to publish with colleagues on various topics of interest to ombudsmen and other conflict managers. She is collecting and organizing materials about initiatives taken by MIT from 1973 to 1990 to support diversity and inclusion and about the beginnings of the organizational ombudsman profession. She continues her work on helping individuals to deal with any form of unacceptable behavior, and helping organizations to support responsible bystander behavior.

1. Integrated Conflict Management Systems and the Ombudsman Role Therein

2. The Organizational Ombudsman Profession

3. Effectiveness and Usefulness of Organizational Ombudsmen

4. Micro-inequities, Micro-affirmations; the Minutiae of Discrimination; Sexual Harassment

5. More Topics in Organizational Ombuds Practice: including gender roles in families, mentoring, networks and affinity groups, fostering diversity, genetic testing, dealing with delusions, fear of HIV/AIDS and fear of violence, responsible bystander behavior, bullying; confidentiality, neutrality, informality as Ombudsman Standards of Practice; and the various functions of an organizational ombudsman

6. Other MIT Articles and Materials by Mary Rowe

7. Other Publications by Mary Rowe

  • "Entrepreneurial Patterns in the Nigerian Sawmilling Industry," with John R. Harris, Nigerian Journal of Economic and Social Studies, Volume VIII, (March 1966), pp. 67-96.
  • "Big Business and the Black Entrepreneur," with Richard S. Rosenbloom, The Clevelander, Greater Cleveland Growth Association, Vol. 45, No 6 (October 1968), pp. 24-25.
  • "Economics of Child Care," written and oral testimony to the Senate Finance Committee, September 1971, published in the Child Care Hearings of that Committee, 1971, pp. 235-313.
  • A Study in Child Care, 1970-71 (OEO - Abt Associates, Cambridge, Massachusetts), Volume I, (principal author); "West 80th Street Day Care Center," and "The Family Day Care Career Program," case studies in the above study, Volumes IIA and IIB, (principal and co-author, respectively; "Issues of Cost and Quality", Volume III, (co-author), 1971.
  • "Entrepreneurial Attitudes and National Integration: The Nigerian Case," with John R. Harris, Nigeria: Modernization of the Politics of Communalism, edited by Robert Melson and Howard Wolpe, Michigan State University Press, 1971, pp. 145-169.
  • "Economics of Child Care at Harvard-Radcliffe", reports submitted to Child Care Council of Harvard-Radcliffe University, 1971 and 1972.
  • Child Care in Massachusetts: The Public Responsibility, with Richard R. Rowe, et al, Massachusetts Advisory Council on Education, 182 Tremont Street, Boston, Massachusetts, 1972. Chapter 8 (by Mary Rowe) reprinted as The Costs of Child Care: Money and Other Resources, Day Care and Child Development Council of America, Inc., Washington, D.C., 1972.
  • "The State of the Art in Evaluation of Early Childhood Programs," for the National Academy of Public Administration and the General Accounting Office of the United States, May 1972, included in conference proceedings.
  • Sliding Fee Schedules and Child Care under H.R.I., with David Warner and James Botkin, Abt Associates, Cambridge, Massachusetts, July 1972.
  • "How Much is Good Child Care Worth?" Inequality in Education, No. 13 (December, 1972), pp. 13-16, published by the Center for Law and Education, Harvard University, also republished in Perspectives on Child Care, The National Association for Education of Young Children, Washington, D.C., 1973.
  • Day Care for Administrators, Teachers and Parents with Richard Ruopp, Brigid O'Farrell, David Warner and Ruth Freedman, M.I.T. Press, 1973.
  • "Economics of Child Care," with Ralph Husby, in Child Care-Who Cares? edited by Pamela Roby, Basic Books, 1973, pp. 98-123.
  • "Questions We Might Ask about Child Care," Industry and Day Care Conference II, Urban Research Corporations, 5464 South Shore Drive, Chicago, Illinois, 1973.
  • "When the Employer Faces Day Care Decisions: Cost-Benefit Analysis and Other Decision Making Tools," Sloan Management Review, Vol. 14, No. 3, (Spring 1973).
  • "People Keep Asking Me What Androgyny Means," in Tech Talk, 1973.
  • "The Changing Status of Women: Economic Realities," Wheaton College Alumnae Magazine, Volume LXII, No. 1 (August 1974), pp. 2 and 36-37.  
    • "Especially for Working Mothers," Parents Magazine. A monthly column on research and policy relevant to working parents. 1977-1979.
    • Testimony to the Senate Finance Committee, “Hearings on Child Care Provisions of H.R.1, September 23, 1971, US Government Printing Office, pp 235-313.

8. Current Research