Entries for March 2006

lectures via iTunes?

Jeremy Smith writes that Case has been accepted into Apple's iTunes University program, which sounds exciting... as long as it doesn't mean that students stop coming to my class.

I think this is great for large lecture classes, where students might not always get a chance to ask questions. For discussion oriented classes, though, nothing can really substitute for being in the room as the discussion happens. That's why I disagree with the highlighted principle in this teaching manifesto", which asserts that professors should not force or blackmail students "into coming to class through devices such as sign-up registers, pop-quizzes, unavailability of class material in print, etc. Design the course such that students who prefer so can follow the course without attending any lectures." I would argue that the way around that dilemma, at least in classes of under 50 students or so, is simply to avoid lecturing. Instead, work on problems, discuss cases, let students ask questions... then it is worth their while to come to class, and the incentives that you give them just provide some encouragement for doing so.

how do company values affect consumer behavior?

I've noticed some interesting tidbits lately about how we respond to corporate actions that communicate social responsibility, and I'd welcome a chance to generate a dialogue about these issues. Take this poll, in the right sidebar of the Case (family) Foundation Spotlight, for instance: it asks, when is a company's commitment to a social issue most important? and suggests that the company's values might influence the products we buy, where we work, or how we invest. Which would you choose?

(Go ahead, click over there, and then come back and tell me! And if you have a hard time deciding, check out these Reebok sneakers, and let me know if you would be more likely to buy them because of the cause you'd be supporting....)

Another datapoint: the online shopping portals that are springing up to allow consumers to donate a portion of their purchases to worthy causes. The latest one I've come across is Alonovo, which allows each user to indicate which social and environmental issues are most important, and then get data about the companies which supply books, music, computers, electronics, etc. that you might want to buy. For instance, you can choose to buy products from companies which share their profits with employees, or which have a better representation of women and ethnic minorities on their boards.

A third datapoint: businesses which have fully embraced sustainability, like the ones that students in the green MBA program visit on field trips, or like Cleveland's own Great Lakes Brewing Company and nearby Wooster's Hartzler Dairy. Will the new business ideas emerging from the Entrepreneurs for Sustainability network in Northeast Ohio find that they are favored by consumers because of the values which guide their business development?

What do you think? Is this a blip, or a genuine trend?

paid parental leave -- could it happen in Ohio?

So, while I was coping with the spring coughing crud at the end of last week (yes, I will call the doctor today), many who write about work-life issues in the blogosphere were commenting on the paid parental leave movement, which has hopped from California to New Jersey. Rebel Dad argues that we should do what we can to get behind this movement, following the lead of the playground revolution chronicled by Miriam Pescowitz.

How can it be healthy for only 20 percent of US families to be able to welcome a new baby to the family without worrying about who will pay the bills? It just can't. We need to level the playing field, so that every new child gets parents who can spend time bonding without fear of the consequences in their paychecks.

This doesn't have to be a really expensive program. The California program costs an average worker only $46 per year, and probably produces tenfold the savings over the following several years, in terms of decreased rates of child abuse, better child and parental health, etc.

The movement is already afoot in two other places: Massachusetts and Washington state. (I won't even mention the much more generous benefits in Canada, Sweden, etc.)

who watches your money while you sleep?

This is the eighth of a series of posts introducing the NEO community to the intrepid students who have taken on an optional assignment in MGMT 251 this spring. The eighth student I am highlighting is Daniel Tikk, whose blog focuses on Management Strategies in Commercial Banking. He has made several entries so far, and his latest addresses the atmosphere in his small-town bank. Do you like having a personal relationship with the tellers at your bank, or are you more an ATM user? Read his entry and leave him a comment, please!

P. S. The previous entry in my series highlighting students' blogs is here, and has links to all the earlier entries as well. Any support you can give to these novice bloggers is most welcome!

the work rhythms of academic and professional life

In this 2001 essay, Heather Menzies (with Janice Newson) asks why academics are not more concerned about the move to online education, and suggests, in her answer, that they are too overworked to speak up.

"Just how many hours a week are we actually working, not just on campus but catching up on e-mail and e-committee work at home in the evenings and on weekends? (In what seems to be the only study of its kind, the Association of University Teachers in the U.K. found that the average work week for academics had risen to 59 hours by the mid 1990s, with women clocking an average of 64.5 hours a week.)."

Reading this made me wonder whether it is a good thing that I can now read the Plain Dealer online before dawn.

Continue reading "the work rhythms of academic and professional life"

it's 5:30 am, and I'm reading PD headlines online...

... something must be changing, however slowly, in the partnership between the Plain Dealer and Cleveland.com -- I hope this isn't just a fluke. (I found this randomly, because I have Google News set up as my homepage, with a custom search for the Plain Dealer, and was shocked to see a March 11 datestamp when I flipped my laptop open this morning. I do not always get up this early on Saturdays, though.)

The story that caught my interest this morning, after reading the top story about the search for a new CEO of the Cleveland Public Schools, is OU grad finds evidence of plagiarism. I'm shocked at the notion of several students plagiarizing Master's theses. Some faculty members somewhere were definitely lax in reading their students' drafts, and teaching them about academic integrity and proper syntax!

I know we need to do a better job about teaching students to avoid plagiarism (and by "we", I mean the teaching profession generally, rather than the faculty at Case specifically). I still have a copy somewhere of a very slim orange booklet that I was given in 8th grade English class, about how to do a research paper, which was mostly about how to acknowledge sources -- but based on the questions I have answered over the past few years from sophomores about whether they need to include references in their papers, or how to do so, to trust that they are being properly educated on this subject in their high school English classes, which is really a shame. Why is it that students these days are not all competent in this skill by the time they reach college?

I suspect that I see this in part because we admit students to Case who may have outstanding quantitative skills, but may only have earned Bs and an occasional C in high-school English. This is one problem with using grades, though -- it is hard to know what the person assigning the grade considers an acceptable performance to earn a B or a C. Another teacher might give a student a B for a well-argued essay which has a few problems with the formatting or specificity of its citations, thinking that it is most important that students learn to express themselves clearly. Such a teacher might not give what I consider sufficient weight to assessing the student's ability to cite sources well. I have no way of knowing that when I evaluate a student's transcript, as a member of an admissions committee. I suppose the lesson is that I should not assume what my students have already learned, when they come into my classroom.

how are universities managed?

No, this is not a post about the budget issues and faculty-leadership tensions on my home campus. (Be sure to read what Aaron had to say about that, though.)

This is the seventh of a series of posts introducing the NEO community to the intrepid students who have taken on an optional assignment in MGMT 251 this spring. The seventh student I am highlighting is Takanori Kido, whose blog focuses on Contrasts in University Management: the US vs. Japan. He has made several entries so far, and his latest addresses the challenge of firing employees. Would you add any considerations to his list? Read his entry and leave him a comment, please!

P. S. The previous entry in my series highlighting students' blogs is here, and has trackbacks to the earlier entries as well. Any support you can give to these novice bloggers is most welcome!

let this be the century when sexism ends

Today is Blog Against Sexism day, and as promised, I'm going to write something about pregnancy discrimination. It's by no means the only manifestation of sexism in our society, but it's one that I have thought about a lot over the last few years, especially since I began teaching my undergraduates the basics about nondiscrimination in employment interviewing.

In a great post on BlogHer about ten days back, Jory DesJardins told a story that sounded all too familiar to me:

Recently I helped a friend get a position at a firm where I knew the principals, who were both men. She already had a small child, and they'd agreed to flexible hours. She worked from home but was enormously structured, starting work at 5am to begin sales calls on the East Coast and taking breaks in the middle of the day to be with her daughter. The situation was working well, until she got pregnant again. Her voice was low and secretive when she called. "I'm pregnant," she nearly whispered. "Congratulations!" I said. She didn't sound as happy as I was for her.

"Thanks," she said. "I haven't said anything yet to my boss."

Sadly that is often what women think upon hearing such news--how do I make it look like having another life in the house won't have any effect on my work performance?

Yes, many employers consider it a bad thing if a worker gets pregnant, and it's such a short-term and narrow-minded point of view. Forget the joy of bringing a new life into the world, forget the long-term contribution that the mother and her social support system will make by raising a young citizen with untold promise, forget that all workers eventually retire and we do need, as a society, to nurture the next generation of productive workers... are you going to be able to deliver your tasks on time to me over the next six months?

I understand that it is disruptive to the normal flow of work to deal with someone going on maternity leave, to find a temporary replacement, to manage the uncertainties of when the new mother will be ready and able to return to full-time work. But let's not forget to be human when we are managers -- let's not forget to say "congratulations!" and mean it. After all, most women are already confronting a lot of stress and challenges when they are holding down a job and growing a baby simultaneously, especially in countries like Papua New Guinea and the United States, where they have no guarantee of paid maternity leave. The least you can do, as an employer, is not add to that stress with a selfish, short-term reaction to the news that an employee is expecting.

According to Carmen Armenti, many women academics either attempt to hide their pre-tenure babies by having May babies or delay having children until after they have earned tenure. In both situations, women are hiding their maternal desires to meet an unwritten professional standard that is geared toward the male life course. While I did not go this far with my first child, I did make a conscious effort not to conceive at a time when I would have gone on leave in the middle of a semester. I didn't want to develop relationships with students and then "leave them in the lurch" when I went into labor, and I didn't want to develop any complicated system for my colleagues to cover for me through the second half of a semester.

That many academic women feel these pressures to minimize the visibility of their motherhood and its impact on their work productivity in the first few months after childbirth is problematic, particularly since that many academics pursue long careers -- 30, 40, or sometimes even 50 years long. Why must their first 10 years follow a lock-step pattern of 4 years earning their doctorate, followed by 6 years of incredibly long hours spent on research, writing, and teaching, in order to earn tenure? Why must people who wish to pursue an academic career, but would prefer not to work 55, 65, or 75 hours a week, be treated as second-class citizens?

Many women entering professional work face these challenges, not just academic women. In consulting, twice as many women exit the big companies from the middle rungs of the career ladder as do men. In medicine, a whole wave of new entrants into the field are seeking ways to combine careers as doctors with family or other personal interests -- both men and women. The organizations which can figure out how to rework traditional male career patterns and create options for their professional employees, both male and female, are the ones which will succeed in retaining outstanding talent in the coming decades, when baby boomers will retire and there will be smaller numbers of new professionals entering the US workforce.

Let this be the century when biased attitudes toward working women who get pregnant fade away, replaced by an appreciation for the value that childbearing and parenting have in our society in the long term.

Let this be the century when shards of the shattered glass ceiling are swept up and shipped off to be recycled, and the maternal wall is demolished for good.

Let this be the century when employers learn to manage employees flexibly, allowing them to structure their own days so they can be most productive.

Let this be the century when women (whether mothers or not) come to be treated as true equals, in the workplace and in their homes, and our global society learns the meaning of equity.

Let this be the century when sexism ends.

(If you want to participate in Blog Against Sexism day, just make a post in your own blog, and put a tag on it that says "blog against sexism". Then you can read other posts made in honor of the cause via Technorati.)

what do I need to know if I work at Bell South?

This is the sixth of a series of posts introducing the NEO community to the intrepid students who have taken on an optional assignment in MGMT 251 this spring. The sixth student I am highlighting is Matteusz Sladeuski, whose blog focuses on Mergers, Acquisitions, and Restructurings. He has made six entries so far, and his latest addresses the downsides of mergers. Please click through to read his commentary on why they can fail. Would you add any possibilities to his list? Read his entry and leave him a comment, please! I'm also looking forward to reading his commentary on the proposed acquisition of Bell South by AT&T and the opposition to the merger by Consumers Union and others.

P. S. The fifth entry in my series highlighting students' blogs is here, and lists the earlier entries as well.

P. P. S. Heads up for tomorrow: March 8 is Blog Against Sexism day. Look for a post from me about pregnancy discrimination and why it harms society...

standing behind the President

After the meeting on Friday afternoon, I'm still feeling a bit uninformed about the point of view of the Arts and Sciences faculty. As I wrote on Thursday, I think more dialogue is needed, but it is certainly my impression that President Hundert and Provost Anderson want to facilitate that process.

The fact that Professor Krauss' initiative was inspired by Harvard concerns me -- it's not clear how our university will benefit from this apparent case of "me-too-ism". There are significant differences between Harvard's faculty of arts and sciences and our College of Arts and Sciences. Harvard has over 940 faculty in Arts and Sciences. In contrast, our College of Arts and Sciences numbers only about 220 professors. Their arts and sciences faculty have sustained the reputation of the entire university in past decades, while Case's reputation comes primarily from engineering and medicine.

I understand that faculty are disappointed that we have not achieved what we had hoped according to the plan launched three years ago. I know it has been and will be very difficult to continue to implement changes when we have not been able to afford as sizeable an investment as we had hoped to support the changes that are underway.

What I do not understand is why the Arts and Sciences faculty feel that the surprises we have experienced in NIH research funding and development are exclusively the president's fault. The course of action he is proposing now, to cease the planned draw on working capital a year early, seems the most responsible course of action. I don't believe that a change in leadership would result in any different decisionmaking. What has happened must be faced, and a change in leadership would only slow down the process of getting back on course.

P.S.: At least one student is standing with President Hundert as well... and don't miss the reasoned comments from Glenn Starkman on this entry. I hope that we can continue to have continued dialogue about these issues (though not necessarily via the blog).

working women stretched to the limit

The New York Times does not have the greatest track record in writing about workplace trends regarding women's participation. Last fall I wrote about Louise Story's flawed article, and later about the response from AlterNet and the National Council for Research on Women highlighting fact vs. anecdote contrasts in the media's portrayal of women in the workplace.

This week's article at first seems to be more grounded in scientific research, and less in subjective assessments of trends. The article, by Eduardo Porter, is entitled "Women in the Workplace: Stretched to Limit, Women Stall March to Work". It attempts to explain why the rate of workforce participation of women, which rose from about 40 percent in 1960 to a peak of 77 percent in 2000, has dropped off in the last 5 years.

The single explanation which resonated the most with my experience is the statistic provided by Suzanne M. Bianchi, a sociologist at the University of Maryland. "Professor Bianchi found that employed mothers, on average, worked at home and on the job a total of 15 hours more a week and slept 3.6 fewer hours than those who were not employed."

I am definitely feeling this limit this week. The stress of uncompleted tasks wakes me up in the middle of the night, especially during the workweek, though in my case the uncompleted tasks I stress the most about are work-related, rather than housework-related. I spend the wee hours of the morning catching up on emails to students, literature searches, data analyses, and drafting and revising research proposals. Then the early morning wakeful hours devoted to work tasks leave me worn out when the weekend rolls around and the opportunities to play with my husband and daughter open up.

The article seems to suggest that I am atypical, and provides statistics from sociologists arguing the balance of unpaid work between men and women is still unbalanced. I do not live the trends described in the article regarding housework -- we hire out at least half of those tasks, and the rest are unevenly divided, with my husband carrying more than half of the responsibilities for cooking, laundry, etc. I don't want my experience to invalidate that of other women who do want their husbands to wake up and do their share -- but I suspect that there are other dynamics at work as well.

The article does not mention another potential explanation for changes in women's workforce participation, which focuses not on husbands as a problem, but on the increasing demands made by employers on their staff, especially at professional levels. I'm surprised that the article did not include statistics about the increase in total work hours for both men and women in the last 45 years. Take a look at these statistics for the UK in the last decade, for example. Also, this background information from PBS is informative about the US experience generally. The presentation given on campus last week by Diane Bergeron indicated that the average number of work hours for associate and full professors in her survey sample was 55 hours per week, and the most productive individuals often work 70 hours or more! Surely, those types of demands for long hours made by elite organizations of their highly-educated staff (not just in universities, but in law offices, health care, and business) are going to put a strain on working professionals. Women in their thirties with children may be feeling this the most, but it affects many women without dependents, and many men, as well.

The long work hours being put in by professionals, and the unwillingness of employers to validate professionals who seek part-time work opportunities, seem like a much more likely explanation for the drop in female workforce participation than any gender war within marriages. They may also explain the high proportion of women experiencing mental health challenges, and our society's decreasing ability to eat well, exercise, and manage stress.

I hope we see followup articles in the New York Times exploring these issues.

the unfolding story of a challenge to leadership

The common wisdom is that any publicity is good publicity, and clearly recent campus events have the local community buzzing about Case and its President. In the season of the year when admitted students are making decisions about where they will enroll next fall, though, I'd rather have the publicity about our campus focusing on positive signs instead of internal discord.

I have not written anything about this story because I feel very uninformed. The best reporting I have found on the no-confidence vote here on campus yesterday is the story in the campus paper. Much like the members of the Undergraduate Student Government, who called earlier this week for faculty to postpone the vote, I think caution is appropriate. Clearly, more dialogue is needed. Weatherhead faculty meet with President Hundert late this afternoon. I'm hoping that something concrete and constructive will emerge from that conversation.

Will musicians lead the revolt against corporate middlemen?

This is the fifth of a series of posts introducing the NEO community to the intrepid students who have taken on an optional assignment in MGMT 251 this spring. The fourth student I am highlighting is Matt Racher, whose blog focuses on Management in the Music Industry. He has made a few entries so far, and his latest addresses a dilemma for established recording artists. Please click through to read his commentary on a recent speech by Courtney Love. Do you think she should strike out on her own? Or is she underestimating the services provided by a record label? Read his entry and leave him a comment, please!

P. S. The first entry in my series highlighting students' blogs, which mentions Danny Pho's Exciting Companies in Northeast Ohio, is here.

The second entry in my series, which mentions David Hastings' Innovations in Motivation, is here.

The third entry in my series, which mentions Chris Reed's Management Issues in the Restaurant Industry, is here.

The fourth entry in my series, which mentions Kevin Sudnik's Managerial Styles Blog, is here.