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Diversity, equity, and inclusion are our greatest innovation challenges—risky, transformative, and ultimately worthwhile.

Founding Director, Institute for Gender and the Economy at Rotman School of Management | Author of The 360° Corporation

Sarah Kaplan | Director, Institute for Gender and the Economy at Rotman School of Management | Author of The 360° Corporation
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Prioritizing Corporate Social Responsibility (1:53)

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Identifying Shareholder Trade-Offs (2:31)

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Busting the Myth of Meritocracy (5:03)

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Gender Equality As an Innovation Challenge (3:25)

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Investing in Gender Equality (4:10)

Lavin Exclusive Speaker

We treat innovation as an investment: something that we do, regardless of how difficult, risky, or potentially unsuccessful it may be, because it’s worth it. Why not treat our biggest social challenges the same way? That is the question posed by SARAH KAPLAN, a former McKinsey alum turned premier MBA professor. In her rousing talks, she shows us how to reposition our biggest struggles—gender equality, diversity, the environment—into innovation challenges that will transform our organizations, making us more creative and more resilient along the way.

In her latest book The 360° Corporation, Kaplan reveals how companies, from Nike to Walmart, have risen to meet the challenges of modern business—where the name of the game is no longer to turn a profit, but to turn a profit while making a positive contribution to society. Combining razor-sharp business savvy with a rigorous academic approach, she offers an eloquent and strategic plan for leaders, managers, and executives hoping to create lasting, transformative change.

“As business leaders, we evaluate and make trade-offs every day. Sarah Kaplan has prepared a cogent guidebook to help turn these events into strategic opportunities to capture value.”— Dave Stangis, VP of Corporate Responsibility, Campbell Soup Company

Kaplan also serves as the Director at the Institute for Gender and the Economy (GATE) at the Rotman School of Management. There, she zeroes in specifically on solving gender inequality (another innovation challenge), both in the world of business and the economy at large.

Prior to The 360° Corporation, Kaplan co-authored the bestseller Creative Destruction, as well as Survive and Thrive: Winning Against Strategic Threats to Your Business. She was formerly a professor at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania (where she remains a Senior Fellow), and has cultivated nearly a decade of consulting and innovation experience at McKinsey & Company. Her previous research has covered biotechnology, fiber optics, financial services, nanotechnology, and most recently, the field emerging at the intersection of gender and finance. Kaplan completed her doctoral research at the Sloan School of Management at MIT, and holds a BA with honors in Political Science from UCLA, and an MA in International Relations and International Economics with distinction from Johns Hopkins University.

Speech Topics

Women in Leadership
Gender Equality as an Innovation ChallengeHow to Address Diversity in Business and Leadership

Our quest for gender equality in the economy has plateaued. In an attempt to reignite progress, many organizations are making an economic argument for diversity, suggesting that hiring more women is good for business. But Sarah Kaplan—a University of Toronto Distinguished Professor of Gender and the Economy—argues that the “business case” may actually be doing more harm than good. It sends signals that women need to be better than men in order to be included in corporate leadership. In this talk, Kaplan busts the myth of meritocracy, showing us how it unintentionally reinforces privilege and actually stagnates progress toward gender equality. Instead of making a business-minded argument, she explains how treating the diversity challenge as an innovation problem will net bigger rewards.

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The 360° CorporationFrom Stakeholder Trade-Offs to Transformation
In addition to shareholder expectations, companies today are facing pressure from “clicktivists,” socially conscious consumers, and a new generation of investors focused on environmental and social integrity. But how can companies cope when the interests of the shareholder and those of stakeholders such as communities, workers, consumers, suppliers, and the environment conflict irreconcilably? Sometimes there will be a win-win solution, but more often than not, there will be trade-offs.
In her book The 360° Corporation, Distinguished Professor Sarah Kaplan shows how organizations can address the tensions head-on in order to spur innovation, develop resilience, and complete total business transformation. Using case studies from companies like Nike and Wal-Mart, she encourages us to look through the lenses of different stakeholders—taking a 360° view—and see new ways of doing business. Her powerful lessons offer managers, CEOs, and innovators a chance to reinvent themselves and their businesses, without succumbing to the burn-out that commonly emerges from being pulled in so many different directions.
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Change Management
Build Back BetterRedesigning Business for the Future
The past few years have demonstrated that there is an urgent need for business reform: from the rallying cry for better work conditions and ethical products, to the potential disruptions of climate change and a heightened understanding of inequality. Today, those issues are magnified ten-fold, making it clear that transformation can’t wait a moment longer. In this fascinating business keynote, Kaplan lays out a plan for “building back better” now that the crises are beginning to settle.
The first pillar lies with reimagining work. The most essential workers in our economy are also the lowest-paid and least secure members of the economy. The pandemic also shed light on the fact that childcare is full-time, intensive work; and how a lack of access to flexibility has siphoned women out of the workforce and killed diversity in many institutions. Redesigning the workforce for the 21st century will require radical upheaval, says Kaplan, including making diversity and inclusion a central component of decision-making.
The second and third pillars of this transformation have to do with purpose in corporate strategy and governance. The world will undoubtedly be watching how companies follow-through on their promises as the economy begins to reopen. Drawing from her book The 360 Corporation, Kaplan shows us how the socially responsible approach is the only approach for us to take in this moment.
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