Business Schools Now Teaching #MeToo, N.F.L. Protests and Trump

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One way that some business schools are responding is by drawing on the social sciences, like behavioral economics and psychology. The Stanford Graduate School of Business’s ethics class — taught by two political scientists, one an expert in behavior and the other in game theory — sounds more like a course in human nature than in finance.

A new topic this year is sexual harassment, and how to create a workplace culture in which people feel comfortable reporting it. The Stanford students studied psychological research showing that people are more willing to challenge authority if at least one other person joins them, and discussed ways to encourage such reporting.

Next year, Fern Mandelbaum, a venture capitalist, will teach a new class to Stanford M.B.A. candidates called Equity by Design: Building Diverse and Inclusive Organizations.

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“It’s not just how the C.E.O. of Uber was treating women,” Ms. Mandelbaum said. “The bias is throughout the system.”

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Carnegie Mellon started its leadership department after hearing from alumni that it needed more training related to skills like empathy and communication. This fall, Ms. Meyer’s students studied a contentious memo written by a Google engineer, who was then fired, arguing that women were less suited to engineering than men.

“We said, ‘This is not just a gender issue. It’s a business issue,’” Ms. Meyer said. “It has marketing implications, legal implications, H.R. implications.”

Gender is an issue that students are particularly interested in, according to the Forté Foundation, which works with business schools to help more women advance into leadership roles. The foundation has developed a tool kit for men, with tips like choosing a name such as “ally” or “liaison” to denote a sense of partnership, or using role-playing scenarios about sensitive situations, like what to do if a colleague says, “She only got the promotion because she’s a woman.”

Two dozen schools have started groups based on the program, including groups called the Manbassadors, for men committed to gender equity in business, at the business schools at Columbia, Dartmouth and Harvard.

The goal is “making sure that as men we’re very aware of some of the privileges we’re afforded simply because of gender,” said Alen Amini, a third-year student at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth and a founder of its Manbassadors group.

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“Something has changed,” Professor Soule said. “I would be kidding you if I told you there wasn’t a different vibe in the classroom.”

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Justin T. Gellerson for The New York Times

As previously taboo subjects enter the classroom debate, students and professors are still adjusting.

“It can get pretty controversial,” said Aaron Chatterji, an associate professor at the Duke University Fuqua School of Business who is starting a class about activism among chief executives. “I’ve never taught a class where I’ve had students talking about gay rights or drug addiction.”

At Vanderbilt, Professor Vogus solicited ideas from the class about how Uber might change its ways. One student suggested hiring fewer star engineers and more team players. Another proposed hiring a woman to lead human resources.

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“We have a ‘C.E.-bro’ culture in the technology sector today, but we’ve had ‘C.E.-bros’ throughout time,” said a student, April Hughes. “Enron was an example of this. All the guys there thought they were smarter than everyone else.”

The class turned testy, however, as students debated whether Uber’s hard-charging culture might have been an asset.

“Some of that brashness was actually critical to the company being successful,” said one student, Andrew Bininger.

When the Uber conversation turned to gender and power dynamics, a female student suggested that women in the Vanderbilt M.B.A. program had to work harder than their male counterparts.

“The women who do make it to business school are all super strong personalities, whereas the men here can float through without being the cream of the crop,” Natalie Copley said, adding of the women in the class, “They’re not meek little timid things.”

That drew jeers from the men in the group, and Professor Vogus changed the subject.

Follow David Gelles on Twitter @dgelles and email him at david.gelles@nytimes.com.


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