Here’s how experts from across the Rotman School of Management responded to issues arising in August 2021.
Experts at the Rotman School spent the past month exploring the purpose of diversity workplace programs, sustainability and pay equity in podcasts and op-eds.
Professor Sonia Kang was a recent guest on the New York Times podcast, weighing in on workplace diversity programs. Ultimately, she believes diversity, equity and inclusion programs are beneficial because they force employees and employers to confront their biases.
“You have to have these conversations,” explains Kang, an associate professor of organizational behaviour and human resource management at the University of Toronto Mississauga with a cross-appointment to the Rotman School. “It’s OK for those biases to be there, but it’s not OK for people to act on them and attach attitudes and stereotypes and all these different things to them. So, I think that not having the conversation in the long term is probably going to be more harmful than having it.”
Meanwhile, professor Sarah Kaplan’s recent op-ed for The Globe and Mail, co-written by Peter Dey, an executive-in-residence at the Rotman School, explains why corporations must be driven by more than just money.
“Corporate boards cannot afford to be laggards in a changing governance landscape. Environmental and social sustainability and corporate sustainability are increasingly one and the same, and the purpose of the corporation must reflect this new reality,” they write.
Kaplan, who is a professor of strategic management at the Rotman School and director of the Institute for Gender and the Economy, was also a guest on The Lancet podcast, speaking about what a feminist economic recovery from COVID-19 could look like. (She drew insights from the report, A Feminist Recovery Plan for Canada, from GATE and YWCA Canada, which was released last year.)
She also spoke on the complex issue of pay equity during a recent episode of Alright, Now What?, a podcast produced by the Canadian Women’s Federation.
Others at the Rotman School took stock of the power dynamics and public health issues during the pandemic.
In their piece for The Washington Post, Tiziana Casciaro, a professor of organizational behavior and HR management at Rotman, and Harvard Professor Julie Battilana point out how workers appear to have the upper hand in today’s labour market. There are widespread labour shortages, and an increasing number of companies are offering flexible work arrangements, higher wages and signing bonuses during the global pandemic.
However, the authors warn employees not to get too comfortable. Their newfound power is limited.
“The increased power that workers have on the job market today will not necessarily translate into them gaining more power inside companies. For that to happen, they need to have a real say in their company’s strategic decisions. This is where power lies.”
On a related note, Casciaro and Battilana’s new book, Power, for All: How It Really Works and Why It's Everyone's Business (Simon & Schuster, 2021), takes a closer look at how power operates and shows readers how to power-map their workplace to find who has influence and why, and plan for and bring about enduring power shifts.
Others at the Rotman School looked at ongoing public health concerns. As vaccination rates plateau, Anita M. McGahan, a professor of strategic management at Rotman, and Peter Zhang (PharmD/MBA ’22) argue that governments need to think through how to tackle vaccine hesitancy. As they discuss in their piece for the Rotman Insights Hub, it starts with trust.
“Resistance arises among citizens who do not trust the government, do not respond to society’s problems, and view social needs as illegitimate,” they write.
“Governments need to demonstrate a genuine commitment to improving personal health beyond the pandemic, particularly in marginalized communities. Otherwise, those who are vaccine hesitant will see that authorities will only care about health needs when it suits their interests.”
Meanwhile, Richard Florida, a professor in the economic analysis and policy area at Rotman and a distinguished scholar-in-residence at the School of Cities at the University of Toronto, is adamant that we need to hold unvaccinated adults accountable.
“With the highly infectious delta variant surging, the unvaccinated are posing direct risks to the health and well-being of the immunocompromised, the frail and the elderly, and especially young children, who cannot yet be vaccinated,” he and his co-author write in their USA Today piece.
Florida also points out how sports stadiums have been the unsung heroes of the pandemic in his Fast Company article. Throughout the pandemic, stadiums all over the world have served as sites for COVID-19 testing, vaccination, personal protective equipment and food distribution, blood drives, overflow capacity for hospital beds, and accommodations for the rest and recovery of essential workers.
On the topic of sports, Ramy Elitzur, an associate professor in the accounting area at Rotman, shows us how salary caps applied to professional sports teams like the NFL and NHL tend to benefit the players in the long-term in his recent piece for The Conversation Canada.
“Despite the opposition of salary caps by player unions in the past, game theory and actual data shows that caps have actually increased average players’ salaries over time,” he writes. “Coupled with how salary caps can help smaller teams stay competitive against those with deeper coffers, it’s clear they currently play an important role in the financial well-being of major league sports teams.”