The Individual and the Corporation: Kathy Levinson and E*Trade a Case Study

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The Individual and the Corporation: Kathy Levinson and E*Trade Case Study
Lisa C. Henkel
Professor Diana Budhai
BUS380 Managing Diversity in the Workplace
March 2009 Section 30071196
April 29, 2009

|Table of Content |

Introduction…………………………………………………………………………………..…..3

Background……………………………………………………………………………………....4

Analysis………………………..…………………………………................................................6

Conclusion………...……………………………………………………………………………...7

References………………………………………………………………………………………..9

Introduction

This case study research paper will examine the case of Kathy Levinson, former President and Chief Operating Officer of E*Trade and her personal decision about openly supporting gay rights initiative in California. The case was originally created by Joseph Badaracco, Jr. of the Harvard Business School. The purpose of the case study project is to provide students a platform to summarize and take an in depth look course materials discussed in Managing Diversity in the Workplace. Required course text and additional sources are referenced.

A summary of the case is provided in the background section while problematic issues are identified in the analysis section. A suggested course of corrective action is found in the conclusion section.

Background

In 1996 Kathy Levinson joined E*Trade- the world’s most visited online investing site. In 1999, she was named President and Chief Operating Officer. In addition to such a high profile, high powered, professional position Kathy was also a lesbian mother of two in a twenty year committed relationship. Her stature and affluence made her an ideal candidate to be the face of “No on Knight”. (Badaracco, 2002)

“No on Knight” was a citizen group formed in the late 90’s in opposition to California’s Proposition 22 ballot measure legally recognizing marriage as a union only between a men and a women.

Supporters of “Prop 22” viewed the measure not as a “gay marriage measure” but framed their argument to be about the “unfair, divisive, and intrusive nature of the initiative”. (Lardner, 1999) They felt they could appeal to the largest possible audience by looking at prop 22 not as gay marriage legislation but as anti gay discrimination. By playing on the notion of government intrusion there was a possibility to capture some of the “sway vote. (Lardner, 1999)

Californians voted in favor of Proposition 22 by a margin of 61% to 39%. (California Prop 22 (2000), 2009)

Analysis

Kathy Levinson had a difficult decision. Should she be very openly and publicly “out” about her personal sexuality or should she maintain her status quo.

In 1999, when approached by the No on Knight Campaign, Kathy was openly homosexual. She was in a long -term committed relationship with her partner of 20 years Jennifer Levinson. Jennifer had legally changed her name and the pair was raising two children (of whom Kathy was the biological mother). Kathy had been an advocate in the past for gay rights but described herself as a “quiet activist”. Support for such a public initiative as Prop 22 would change that. (Badaracco, 2002)

Kathy had to decide both a personal and professional level.

The decsion to support No on Knight was esscential to perserve the domestic benefits rights she had already established. She felt a sense of pride in being true to herslf and wanted top pass that to her chidlren. On the opposite end it would put her family in the spotlight- not something most parents relish for young children. “With her high-profile job, the safety of her family was an issue. She got death threats, personal attacks.” (Lee, 2000) Not openly discussed there were also concerns within Kathy’s family about her personal relationship with Jennifer.

The same could be said of her professional...
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