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Nielsen DEI case study

New Case Studies Put Diversity Center Stage in Yale SOM Classrooms

Cases featuring diverse protagonists, and others addressing issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion, are part of the curriculum in a growing number of courses.

By Karen Guzman

New case studies that put a spotlight on issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in business are featured in a growing number of courses in the Yale SOM curriculum.

The new cases, which debuted last spring and have been integrated more widely into the core curriculum this fall, are part of Dean Kerwin Charles’ Anti-racism at Yale SOM initiative, which was launched in the fall of 2020.

“These cases support our mission to educate leaders for business and society,” said Deputy Dean Edieal Pinker.

“Across sectors, leaders are wrestling with doing a better job on DEI. It’s a major concern. We’re obligated to prepare our students to contribute in meaningful ways to the issues they’ll confront in the workplace. And we want to inspire the confidence in them that, with an SOM education, there are no limits to the roles in which they can succeed.”

Yale SOM’s Case Research and Development Team (CRDT) has been researching and writing the new cases for more than two years, according to Jaan Elias, CRDT director.

“We were already working on these cases when Dean Charles really lit a fire and made more people aware of how important it is to more fully address these issues,” Elias said.

The newly developed cases fall into two, often overlapping categories: cases that feature women and underrepresented people of color as protagonists—a corrective to a systemic overemphasis on White and male protagonists in existing business school cases—and cases that consider the ramifications of DEI efforts inside organizations and in communities.

Viewing management dilemmas through the lens of diversity and inclusion changes your premises, Elias says. “It causes you to fundamentally rethink basic aspects of your business.”

Teaching cases with diverse protagonists and considering issues of equity is also an important part of Yale SOM’s efforts to make its classrooms more inclusive, he added.

The new cases are sprinkled throughout the Yale SOM curriculum, being taught in both core and elective courses. They address a range of DEI concerns, touching on issues of equity and opportunity across sectors.

For example, the case “Nielsen: How Will the Company Maintain Its Commitments to Multiple Stakeholder Groups?” explores Nielsen’s efforts to support its diverse workforce and create ratings that are representative of a diverse population against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resurgent Black Lives Matter. The case is featured in the Executive course, the capstone course of the MBA core curriculum.

Another case, “Hertz Global Holdings: Uses of Debt and Equity,” features diverse protagonists updating the company’s capital structure. Hertz is taught in the Sourcing and Managing Funds core course.

Jacob Thomas, the Williams Brothers Professor of Accounting and Finance who co-teaches Sourcing and Managing Funds, worked on several of the new cases added to the curriculum.

“Our choice of cases was based partly on unique aspects of the firms that allowed us to develop insights about topics we cover,” Thomas said. “We also had an eye on diverse protagonists.”

The cases have proven powerful teaching tools.

“We’re able to illustrate difficult concepts relating to valuation, mergers and acquisitions, and capital structure using real world situations, and at the same time showcase diverse leaders with talent and experience,” Thomas said.

In his Customer core course, K. Sudhir, the James L Frank ’32 Professor of Private Enterprise and Management and a professor of marketing, teaches a case that explores how to market TIAA retirement plans to populations that have traditionally lagged in savings. The case was recently updated to include African-American and Latino populations.

“An important element of Customer is recognizing the importance of differences across consumers,” Sudhir said. “Effective marketing requires both a deep understanding of different populations and tailored marketing that addresses each segment.” 

Yale SOM’s diverse students enrich the analysis, Sudhir said.

 “It helps the class gain more nuanced perspectives on inclusive marketing that celebrate the diversity of populations without falling into ‘stereotype’ traps,” he explained. “Many students tell me how they were humbled by perspectives they had not considered before the presentations and discussions.”