Speaker Series @ Rotman

I have been attending a lot of Speaker Series events @ Rotman lately. This is definitely a great benefit of being a Rotman student because I have the opportunity to hear from industry leaders and network with peers and other established leaders in particular industries.

Here’s a brief rundown of some of the events I attended recently:

Achieving Social Impact Through Business: Corporate Social Responsibility and Non-Profit Expert Panel

This was a panel organized by Rotman’s Net Impact club. They hosted four expert panelist:


  • Kaz Flinn, VP – Corporate Social Responsibility, Scotiabank;
  • John Smiciklas, Senior Manager – Corporate Responsibility, Research in Motion;
  • Andrew Heintzman, CEO, InvestEco; and
  • Gerald Butts, CEO, World Wildlife Fund Canada.


What I really loved about this event is that it was completely hosted and run by Rotman students. Some key quotes from that night included

if people don’t have CSR targets, they won’t do it. If they’re not bonused on it, it won’t happen. ~John Smiciklas

CSR is good for retention & attraction of talent. Brand, reputation, who you are as a company. ~Kaz Flinn

it’s the right thing to do. The earth should have a balance sheet. ~John Smiciklas

And at the end, they were all asked to provide recommendations to achieve social impact:

Make this a fundamental part of you. Don’t compromise. ~Gerald Butts

Its a good risk to be jnvovled in earlier stage businesses. ~Andrew Heintzman

These are the #1 issues for companies today. Make your employment decision based on reputation & CSR. Tell them so that hey will make changes to attract & retain talent. Learn as much as you can about this. ~John Smiciklas

bring your commitment to wherever you work. Companies want people committed to this on their teams. ~Kaz Flinn

What was even better about the evening was that we were able to get some good information to finish up a group paper for our Business Ethics course due that night!

CEO Joe Mapa on ‘how Mt. Sinai Hospital links its operations strategy to its overall strategy’

Several of my classmates work in the healthcare industry and I have been considering looking into career opportunities there. I was very interested to hear how Mount Sinai creates its business strategies with all the complexities that the healthcare industry provides.

What was great about the event is that he shared Mount Sinai’s business & operatational strategy frameworks and focused on discussing their Centres of Excellence. At the end, there were lots of opportunities for questions as it was a more intimate event. I was impressed with the number of industry leaders and Joe’s own peers who attended.

Ilene Lang, President and CEO, Catalyst Inc: “Engaging Men In Gender Initiatives: What Change Agents Need To Know”

I was actually attending this more on behalf of my responsibility for diversity initiatives at my workplace but it is encouraging to know that Rotman is taking initiative to support women in leadership roles. They have a very robust Initiative for Women in Business program at Rotman which organized this event.

Did you know that on average, companies with more women at the top perform better than those with less women at the top? This means more women in leadership positions actually benefit companies in achieving their bottom line.

Catalyst is an organization that focuses on expanding women and business. They actually shifted their focus from changing women to changing workplaces.

Ilene Lang, the CEO, provided a great overview of the research that Catalyst conducts and how an unfair workplace harms everyday. It was followed by a Q&A session with a time for networking afterwards. I was impressed with the high profile of the attendees that evening from the diversity industry.

Social Enterprise Experts Speaker Series @ Rotman: 5 experts on ‘Understanding the Social Economy’

This was probably one of the best events I have been to yet. The five experts on this panel were:

  • Ann Armstrong, Director – Social Enterprise Initiative, Rotman School of Management, U of Toronto;
  • Geoff Cape, Co-Founder and Executive Director, Evergreen;
  • Laurie Mook, Co-Director – Social Economy Centre, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, U of Toronto;
  • Jack Quarter, Professor and Co-Director – Social Economy Centre, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, U of Toronto; and
  • Bill Young, Founder and President, Social Capital Partners


These panelists recently published a book on the social economy and the evening began with brief remarks from each one on their views of the social economy. The best part, however, was the Q&A as it really brought to light the true issues that we face today.

Measuring results was a hot topic as it is difficult to measure the benefits of the social economy. And if it’s not measured that it’s not noticed.  Geoff Cape noted that Evergreen is dealing with social change and they measure it by shifts in attitudes & behaviour. Another panelist said that we need to accept that we can’t do exact measuring. We need to drive behaviours towards our objectives.

We need to find mechanisms to enable innovation.

I really liked this quote because I’m a huge fan of TED talks. I feel that if we really focused on innovating for the social economy, we could make significant improvements in today’s world. A current favourite TED talk is this one by Jane Chen that focused on saving lives.

HR was also a hot topic which I was surprised about:

We need to show that employment outcomes hired through a social hiring channel are just as good as hiring throuth a traditional channel or even better; provides more loyal productive employees.

There is a desperate cry in society for more meaning. Are we only here to make money?

Consumers are now voting with their wallets based on their values.

I really appreciate that Rotman has so many resources focused on Social Economy and Corporate Social Responsibility. We even hosted a CSR case competition recently! I am encouraged that we are focusing on driving change within students as they will (and already are in many cases) the future leaders of our world.


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