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Sexist Assignment From U Of T Business School Gets Shut Down

12/08/2014 11:15 EST | Updated 12/09/2014 06:59 EST
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If you're a business prof and want to use the plot of a Hollywood movie as your fictional example in an assignment, you might want to make sure it's not completely sexist — oh, and inaccurate — first.

A class assignment at the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management in Professor Kent Womack's class asked students to help graduating business student "Elle Forest" decide between compensation packages at her upcoming job with Tiffany & Co, reports the Toronto Star.

She turns to her fiancé, Chip, for assistance because she's “confused about the subtleties of the offer,” who helps break it down for her, but he also reminds her all of this might not matter because they may have to move to Australia for his job. Some highlights include Elle getting distracted while discussing her future and falling asleep "dreaming of those little blue boxes and beautiful shoes.”

As many people will recognize, this is a play on the character of Elle Woods, depicted by Reese Witherspoon in the "Legally Blonde" movies, where a supposedly ditzy fashion major gets into Harvard Law and proceeds to become a force to be reckoned with in the legal profession. Without, incidentally, any help from her boyfriend.

A student at Rotman sent the assignment to the Star, expressing concerns over its sexist connotations. According to the paper, Ken McGuffin, media relations manager at Rotman, said the assignment was “an ill-advised satire of a pop-culture character. The faculty involved with the course will be apologizing to the class and the assignment has been retracted and will not be used again." The National Post notes the assignment was created by a teaching assistant, but approved by Womack.

A few weeks ago, "Computer Engineer Barbie" caused controversy with a story detailing the doll's attempt to design a game, only to have her crash her computer and turn to her male friends to fix it.

Business schools are unfortunately well known for their gender divisions, as Business Week pointed out in a piece earlier this year.

As Amy Edmondson, a professor at Harvard Business School, tweeted this morning, quoting Rotman's new dean, Tiff Mackelm:

Rotman, for its part, actually has in place several initiatives in an attempt to combat the problem, including best practices that tackle unconscious biases that hinder progress.


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