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Sarah Kaplan

Corporate social responsibility is our generation’s biggest innovation challenge.

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

Contact Sarah For Booking
Sarah Kaplan | Director, Institute for Gender and the Economy at Rotman School of Management | Author of The 360° Corporation
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 corporate social responsibility 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 Wal-Mart, 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. When the coronavirus pandemic laid bare the enormous inequalities still present in our economy, the Institute released a report on why we need a feminist recovery plan. “If we look at the impact from a health and economic standpoint, it is disproportionately on those with intersecting identities. You wouldn’t be able to have an economic recovery without paying attention to who is impacted and why,” Kaplan explains, noting that women workers have borne the brunt of the economic losses. “We actually won’t get economic recovery if we don’t get to things that are holding women back.”

 

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

Economics
A Feminist Recovery Why There Is No Economic Recovery Without Gender Diversity
A landmark report by the Institute for Gender and the Economy (GATE) revealed that over half of women workers fall into occupations known as the 5Cs: caring, cashiering, catering, cleaning, and clerical functions. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many of these women have been lauded as heroes—despite the fact that they lack basic protections and benefits—and many more have lost their jobs entirely.
 
In this talk, you’ll hear from the Director of GATE herself: the brilliant and multi-talented Sarah Kaplan. As businesses and government leaders navigate the re-opening of the economy, Kaplan provides clear and precise guidance for how to rebuild—and she doesn’t mince any words while doing so. An economic recovery plan that does not address the communities that have been hardest hit by the pandemic, is no recovery plan at all, says Kaplan. If left unchecked, this health crisis could roll back decades of women’s rights and strides made towards gender equity.
 
This presentation is ultimately an opportunity to reevaluate who is considered “essential” in society, and create an economy that is fair and inclusive for all.
Change Management
Build Back Better Redesigning Business in a Post-Pandemic Future
Even before the pandemic hit, there was 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. The pandemic has just magnified those issues 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” after COVID-19.
 
The first pillar lies with reimagining work. The virus has revealed that the most essential workers in our economy are also the lowest-paid and least secure members of the economy. It’s also shed light on the fact that working from home is both possible and desirable; that childcare is full-time, intensive work; and how a lack of access to it 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.
Innovation
The 360° Corporation From 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.
Women & Leadership
Gender Equality as an Innovation Challenge How 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.