The Inbox

Realizing the True Power of Wharton Women

In the Spring 2012 Wharton Magazine article, “Realizing the Power of Women at Wharton, Lilian Chen, W’13, says, “Women have only been at Wharton for more than 50 years.” In 1949, Lorene Meyers Southworth, WG’50, and I connected when we sat together at a Wharton graduate student initial assembly. That was more than 60 years ago; we have been friends and Wharton connected ever since. As we had different majors, Lorene may have been the only woman in her classes, but there was one other woman in some of my accounting classes. We attended and marched together at our 55th Reunion in 2005—one WG ’50 male marched with us. We chatted by phone this week.

Helen Lowe Eliason, WG’50 

Final Exam: Beyond Multiple Choice

The question as posed is deceptively simple (“Final Exam,” Winter 2013). I am a powerful manager. I want to hire Mike. I am having a meeting with people who have some concerns about hiring Mike. How do I get the decision I want out of this meeting: i.e., hiring Mike? The key issue here is, how important is this decision to you and how important is it to the other people who will be at the meeting? The more the decision is not important to the other people in the room, the less, you the manager, need to worry about concerns that might be raised or the process by which the meeting will deal with concerns: i.e., if the issue is not deemed sufficiently important, it does not matter which answer you pick because no matter how you run the meeting, you will get the result you want.

For argument’s sake, assume the decision is important to other people at the meeting. (The issue of what constitutes “important to other people” could also be discussed, but to simplify, one can reasonably say, if people say it is important—for whatever reason—it is important.) Given that this decision is important to the meeting attendees, I would want answers to the following questions before I determined a course of action: First of all, what is my relationship to the people who will be attending this meeting? That is, if I am a powerful manager, what is the nature of my authority/power? Are they my subordinates, peers or persons higher than me in the organization? (Or some combination?) What is my relationship with them? Do they act independently of me? (Or in the case of my superiors, do I act independently of them?) How many direct allies/people will be unquestionably on my side? (Or conversely, how many reluctants or neutrals will there be in the meeting?) If there are people who will not be in the meeting whose input is significant, should that be taken into consideration in the way this meeting is conducted?

Secondly, what will be the relationship between Mike and the people attending this meeting? In other words, how important is this decision to the people at the meeting? Is Mike going to be their superior, a peer or support staff to them? If Mike is going to interact with them, how important to them are those interactions going to be?

Third, what do I know about the concerns regarding Mike? How significant are those concerns? Are they something that I can address in the course of the meeting?

Fourth, how important is this decision to me? How much time, energy and political capital am I willing to expend to ensure that this decision goes the way I want it to.

Finally, this is not a question that is appropriately answered by multiple-choice answers. The answer to this question is dependent upon me, my style, the meeting attendees, my relationships with them, Mike, the nature of Mike’s proposed role, the organization, and its history and style. I would not limit myself to the proposed answers as containing the “right” course of action.

Jonathan Adams, WG ’74 

Sign Him Up

I am a manufacturer/distributor of frozen desserts and hot fudge in the Boston area (Coop’s MicroCreamery). We use Alphonso Mangoes exclusively for our mango sorbet as they are the best by far. I want to know how I can take advantage of the intraseason deflation price drop of “more than 150 percent” that the essay claims (“Pricing Mango Madness,” Winter 2013). Presumably, this means that I will be paid more than 50 percent of the usual price just to take them off of the supplier’s hands. Sign me up!

Marc “Coop” Cooper, EE’66, WG’68

Skewing the Data on Confidence

I was dismayed to see the article on retiring abroad manipulating data to present a skewed picture of the economy, pointing to a 14 percent decline in the S&P between 2007 and 2010 as a reason that “loss of confidence [by retirees in the economy] is understandable” (“Home Is Where the Heart Is?” Winter 2013).

One could just as reasonably point to the staggering 63 percent gain in the S&P between 2009 and 2013, or the 62 percent gain between 2003 and 2006. But those returns don’t support the story you set out to tell.

Certainly, equities are volatile, and volatility in the stock market can be challenging for retirees. But I expect more from Wharton than choosing arbitrary dates to make a point.

Eric Emrey, WG’13 


CORRECTION : In our previous Office Hours essay, “Obamacare and the Element of Surprise” (Spring 2013), we stated that the Supreme Court decided 7-2 that the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act was constitutionally supportable under Congress’ power to tax and spend. The court’s vote was 5-4. 

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