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Students at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management Changing the Conversation on Gender Equality.

August 30, 2017

Toronto – This month, business schools across the globe are welcoming MBA students to campus.  For students at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management back to b-school will mean more than focusing on a singular goal to secure a job.

As part of the Rotman School’s newly launched Institute for Gender and the Economy, many students will be exploring new ways to change the conversation about gender equality in business.

“Despite widespread acknowledgment of the gender gap, and credible efforts to close it, we don’t truly understand root causes of gender inequality. Without this understanding, business leaders will continue to have the same old conversations about diversity and inclusion,” says Sarah Kaplan, the founder of the Institute for Gender and the Economy, and Distinguished Professor of Gender & the Economy.  “Let’s be honest and admit that progress on gender equality is stalled. It’s time to start thinking differently.”

The Institute for Gender and the Economy was launched in September 2016 with a goal to use rigorous research to change the conversation on gender equality. Building leaders with the capabilities to think differently about gender equality is a core part of the Institute’s strategy.  The 2017-2018 school year will see the two student-focused programs come to life: a $50,000 Gender & the Economy Student Fellowship Program and an innovative design thinking course.

The Institute held a competition for a $50,000 Gender & the Economy Fellowship program which selected five student fellows to lead a year-long project focused on a gender challenge of interest. This year’s Fellows are MBA students from the School's Full Time MBA, Morning & Evening MBA, MBA/MGA, and JD/MBA programs. Their projects might involve developing a series of pod casts, coming up with a strategy for recruiting more women to the MBA program, curating a film series, or other topics. The students will be coached by consultants from Bain & Company’s Toronto office.

“The response to our first year of the fellowship award program was overwhelming” says Prof. Kaplan “We were not sure what to expect, but we had far more excellent and qualified applicants than we had awards, which was an inspiring reminder to me that today’s MBA students are truly seeking to make an impact and change the conversation on gender equality.” 

A new MBA elective course “Designing for Equality” is also launching this month. The Rotman School has long been known as a leader of design thinking in business. In this course, students will be challenged to apply design thinking to understand and solve complex gender challenges.

“Design Thinking assumes that all problems are solvable, but that traditional problem-solving methods don’t always work. For wicked problems, like gender equality, design thinking allows for a deeper understanding of the problem-at-hand and ‘rapid solution prototyping’ to involve those who experience the problem in the solution design,” says Vanessa Iarocci, the Institute’s Executive in Residence and course instructor. The course will involve student projects focused on a series of ‘live cases’ proposed by different organizations.

The Institute for Gender and the Economy is a research centre at the Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto. Founded in September 2016, The Institute is dedicated to supporting cutting-edge research in gender and the economy and translating those insights for practitioners in business, government and other organizations. The goal is to make progress by using rigorous research to change the conversation on gender equality. For further information on the Institute, including upcoming events and new research, please visit

The Rotman School of Management is located in the heart of Canada’s commercial and cultural capital and is part of the University of Toronto, one of the world’s top 20 research universities. The Rotman School fosters a new way to think that enables our graduates to tackle today’s global business and societal challenges.  For more information, visit


For more information:

Ken McGuffin
Manager, Media Relations
Rotman School of Management
University of Toronto
Voice 416.946.3818
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