Oklahoma City University Law Review
I teach a business organizations course that is typically a large class with up to ninety students. At some point in the first week of each semester, I talk about public companies and the men who lead them. I point out to my students that while it is appropriate in most contexts to use gender-neutral language, it would be inaccurate to do so when talking about big business. Only fifteen percent of the board seats at Fortune 500 companies are held by women, and only sixteen percent of Fortune 500 corporate officers are women. I let my students know that when we talk about business organizations, particularly big business, we are talking about class, race, and gender-we are talking about affluent white men.
Most years, we also talked about people of color and women in my business organizations course. This was easy to do after two large class actions were filed in the 1990s against Texaco and Coca-Cola alleging race discrimination and as the huge sex-discrimination class action against Wal-Mart unfolded. We talked about the power of shareholders to communicate with each other about discriminatory corporate cultures through the shareholder-proposal process. We also discussed communication between shareholder activists and corporate management through the process of demand in the derivative-litigation context. And, as the subprime debacle unfolded, we talked about fiduciary duty and the mortgage companies that targeted communities of color for subprime loans even when borrowers had good credit records. But, when there is no big news story involving women or people of color, it is difficult to bring the discussion into a survey course taken by students who want to learn the basics of business for the bar examination or for a career in the corporate world.