In the assignment, a fictional young woman, Elle, was too distracted by sparkly jewelry and designer shoes to put her girly-mind to understanding the compensation packages offered to her by Tiffany and Co. for the job she would soon accept (but only for a time because she has plans to go have babies in the Hamptons!).
Instead, she relies on the advice of Chip, her Yale-trained lawyer boyfriend.
There was a backlash:
Some in the class made their displeasure known and the assignment was shared with a reporter at The Toronto Star who contacted Kent Womack, the professor.
He subsequently offered the class an apology, if you could call it that.
He seems to have thrown his teaching assistant under the bus claiming not to have seen the question in advance. Um, shouldn’t he have?
And then he allegedly tried to gather the class under a “cone of silence” wherein they would all agree not to go the media again in such circumstances for the good of the Rotman School brand.
This is the school responsible for turning out our business leaders.
Now I’m no business professor, but shouldn’t a business management school kinda be embracing things that will increase profitability?
Which brings me to my next point.
Every organization is being reimagined from the outside whether it wants to be or not. Often from the inside too.
We haven’t inspired their confidence:
An emerging generation does not subscribe to the same values or timelines their parents did. They watched their parents and grandparents thrown out of jobs they’d given their whole careers to.
They see a world where a shrinking pool of people own the vast majority of wealth and resources even as the world tumbles closer to ecological disaster. And they have massive student debt and fewer career options than previous generations have had.
Taking matters into their own hands:
They aren’t so inclined as their parents to sit on the sidelines and take a “well let’s see what happens” approach. The workforce that these Ivy League managers will be managing probably won’t be all that content with sitting under the cone of silence because someone with a better suit told them to.
Hey! It’s 2014!
Business runs on trust. In a world where we are all so interconnected, the truth is just a few mouse clicks away. The days where a business could do one thing and say another are retreating with every post, tweet, and shot snapped from a smart phone camera.
An ill-conceived assignment was bad enough. But an attempt to elicit the silence of those who did or would speak out under the guise of an apology, as incomplete as it was, said more than words.
It’s not them, it’s you:
And yes, finally, as of this writing, the school has just issued a formal apology. But it addresses the assignment only, not the subsequent attempt to secure the silence of those who called on the school to be more. And besides promising that the assignment would not be used again, it did not outline how it would further entrench its commitment to being a school that understands the importance and necessity of women in business.
The Rotman School of Management looks bad, and not because of the students who called on their school to show some respect to 1/2 of the population. It is because it looks dated. Out of step. Anachronistic.
If the Rotman School wants to avoid PR incidences that will further tarnish its brand in its future, it should produce a class of executives with values that will inspire others to follow them. It should also stop beating down its dissenters; they’re the ones who will make them better.