Mary Rowe

Mary Rowe is an MIT Ombudsperson and Adjunct Professor of Negotiation and Conflict Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management. In 1973 MIT may have been the first large organization to use the term “sexual harassment” and to adopt procedures, to deal with harassment, in part because of her work. She coined the terms “micro-inequities” and “micro-affirmations” and has written on these subjects since 1973. In 1984 she published two of the earliest articles about conflict management systems design; all her systems articles are available on her website. Rowe helped to develop some of the earliest training on “Dealing with the Fear of Violence,” and  “Bystander training.”

Rowe has a PhD in Economics from Columbia University, has been a mediator for many years, and was a founding member and first President of the Corporate Ombudsman Association, which became The Ombudsman Association, and is now the International Ombudsman Association. The MIT Ombuds Office website –– includes some of her articles on the ombuds profession, dealing with harassment, helping people to come forward about unacceptable behavior, integrated systems design, and other topics.

Rowe has lived and worked in Africa, the Caribbean, and in Europe. She was an outside consultant to the Department of the Navy after Tailhook, and has consulted to hundreds of corporations, government agencies and academic institutions in the US and other countries, on starting an ombuds office. With a number of other ombuds colleagues, she published last year a “close observer” study: “Dealing with-or Reporting-“Unacceptable” Behavior,” in the Journal of the International Ombudsman Association, Winter 2009, 2(1).

Select Publications:

“Organizational Systems for Dealing with Conflict & Learning from Conflict-an Introduction;”

“Systems for Dealing with Conflict and Learning from Conflict-Options for Complaint-Handling: an Illustrative Case;”

“An Organizational Ombuds Office In a System for Dealing with Conflict and Learning from Conflict, or ‘Conflict Management System’;”

A Supplemental Chart “Analyzing Your Conflict Management System,” in Harvard Negotiation Law Review,  2009, and

“Identifying and Communicating the Usefulness of Organizational Ombuds With Ideas about OO Effectiveness and Cost-Effectiveness” in the Journal of the International Ombudsman Association, Winter 2010, 3(1).

Rowe has a number of special interests in the field of conflict management: unacceptably unprofessional behavior of all kinds, harassment and bullying of all kinds, “micro-inequities,” (that is, small insults that do damage), mentoring and career development,including “micro-affirmations,” dealing with very difficult people and people who “won’t let go,” options for action if one sees something bad happen, mediating intellectual property disputes, work/family concerns, and the role of apologies.

Her Sloan course is on MIT’s OpenCourseWare: Negotiation and Conflict Management (15.667), Professor Mary Rowe, Sloan School of Management, Open Course Ware (OCW) The section called Lecture Notes includes a number of short advisories on preparing for a negotiation, dealing with aggressive people, coping skills, a protocol for brainstorming a difficult problem, and the like.


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