Tag: Faculty



As companies trim their hierarchies and form teams of employees to manage themselves, WashU Olin researchers are sounding warning bells. 

Inequity “is likely to be a significant problem”—especially for women, who made one-fourth less than their male counterparts in a new study of self-managed teams.

Lamar Pierce

Women “consistently receive bargaining outcomes below their productivity level, while men are consistently overcompensated,” Olin’s Lamar Pierce and Dennis J. Zhang, with Laura Wang of the University of Illinois, write in “Peer Bargaining and Productivity in Teams: Gender and the Inequitable Division of Pay.” The paper is forthcoming at Manufacturing & Service Operations Management. 

Zappos, Google, Facebook and others have adopted them. The teams are meant to boost productivity, offer flexibility, attract young people and foster creativity. Ideally, they allocate tasks based on employees’ strengths and then assign rewards—equitably—based on their contributions.

But how well do the teams actually work?

Dennis Zhang
Dennis J. Zhang

“Inherently, they aren’t as awesome as people think,” said Pierce, professor of organization and strategy and associate dean of the Olin-Brookings Partnership. (Zhang, professor of operations and manufacturing management, was in Beijing and unavailable for an interview.)

Finding: Women were paid 24% less than men

For 50 months, Pierce, Zhang and Wang studied productivity and bargaining traits in a service operation setting: a chain of 32 large beauty salons with 932 workers in China. About half (54%) of the workers were men. 

They found that the men consistently extracted “advantageous bargaining values from their female coworkers, despite having no observable productivity advantage.”

In fact, women in the sample earned at least 24% less than their equally productive male counterparts. 

That gender pay gap is larger than the pay gaps found in places with hierarchical management structures. A 2005 study found a gap of 10% in Asia and larger inequities in the United States and Europe.

The new evidence on self-managed teams has implications for US organizations.

“You see these dynamics playing out in Silicon Valley all the time. You see them playing out in academia,” Pierce said. 

“Social interactions between men and women have consistencies across culture, across economic class, across age,” he said. “Show me the culture where women don’t tend to get worse negotiation or bargaining outcomes.”

‘Stuck with a bunch of overpaid men’

A combination of higher “prosociality” and lower bargaining power in women most likely explains the 24% wage disparity, the researchers report. Prosocial behavior includes feeling concern for others and acting to benefit them. 

When the workers divided their own team-based compensation, women were severely underpaid for their productivity. Consider this: Women were the top salespeople in the beauty salons, and those women took home only the median wage.

“This is really bad because they’re going to leave, and when they leave then (the company is) going to be stuck with a bunch of overpaid men,” Pierce said.

The researchers compiled data from three sources between April 2009 and May 2013: Point-of-sale from each salon, which included every service and card-for-service transaction; the internal human resource system that included the commission paid to each worker for each transaction; and detailed demographic information of each worker in those transactions.

They found that gender “strongly predicts” under- or overcompensation relative to productivity. Men made up a disproportionate number of highly paid yet unproductive workers. Women overrepresented “star employees” with poor bargaining outcomes.

The researchers used a previously proven algorithm to confirm gender as the strongest predictor of bargaining outcomes.

Out of sight, out of mind

Pierce emphasized that self-managed teams can work well—with clear guidelines in place. The study highlights how important it is to monitor and enforce pay equity in self-managed teams. After all, those teams assign tasks, responsibilities and rewards for teammates.

“Because this design decision effectively puts inequity ‘out of sight for the manager,’ it may also put this inequity ‘out of mind,’” the researchers write. But that doesn’t abdicate a manager’s responsibility to stem bias and discrimination. One solution is to set up formal rules for the assignments of tasks and rewards, the findings suggest. 

“Do you have safeguards in place to ensure that the person who gets all the credit, who gets the rewards, who gets the best task is not simply the one who bargains the best or bargains the most aggressively?” Pierce asked. 

The research findings also imply that firms could cut costs by replacing overpaid workers. And the findings show that good workers who are underpaid lose motivation—and often leave.

“Managers must anticipate and mitigate this gender-based inequity,” the researchers write. That’s because it is an operational performance issue. And “because of the myriad of productivity, retention and ethical implications that can result from peer-based bargaining.”




Fuqiang Zhang teaching a global operations class to second-year MBA students in March 2019, during Olin

I wanted to share some exciting news about our faculty member Fuqiang Zhang, professor of operations and supply chain management.

Professor Zhang has been appointed the Dan Broida Professor in recognition of his contributions and leadership in research and teaching. He received his PhD in managerial science and applied economics from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and joined Olin in 2007.

Last year, Professor Zhang received the Yangtze River Scholar Award by the Chinese Ministry of Education, the highest award that the People’s Republic of China bestows on an individual in higher education.

The Dan Broida Professorship in Operations and Manufacturing Management was established in 1984 by Mrs. Roma Wittcoff, an alumna and trustee emeritus of Washington University, in memory of her first husband, Daniel Broida, who died in 1981. Mr. Broida earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Washington University in 1936 and was the founder of Sigma Chemical Company, now Millipore Sigma.

We join in thanking Mrs. Wittcoff for her tremendous support and congratulating Professor Zhang. We will plan to have a formal installation ceremony for Professor Zhang in the coming academic year.

Pictured above: Fuqiang Zhang teaching a global operations class to second-year MBA students in March 2019, during Olin’s global immersion experience in Shanghai.




Spencer Burke

Emma Vogel, a video intern in Olin marketing and communications, wrote this for the Olin Blog.

Spencer Burke, adjunct lecturer in family business for WashU Olin, will assume the role as Eugene F. Williams Jr. Executive in Residence for the Koch Center for Family Business, Dean Mark Taylor and Professor Bart Hamilton announced in May.

The appointment is the latest development following the spring 2018 announcement of the Koch Center for Family Business, launched with the support of the St. Louis Koch family’s gift $9 million. That center is the outgrowth of the Olin family business program, funded with a $1.09 million donation from the Kochs in 2016.

The Olin family business initiative began to “educate future business leaders on unique family business issues while providing resources for family enterprise as they grapple with these challenges.”

Prior to accepting this position, Burke served as the leader of the family business initiative and has been the organizer and moderator of Olin’s highly successful annual family business symposium. He is a principal at the St. Louis Trust Company, where he leads the firm’s family business advisory practice.

Additionally, Burke currently serves as chairman of the board of the Mallinckrodt Foundation, which seeks to fund biomedical research in St. Louis and throughout the United States.

“I have taught at Olin for eight or nine years and I am excited to no longer be the lone ranger in family business,” Burke said. He will now join a team at the Koch center—led by Hamilton, the center’s inaugural director, Olin’s Robert Brookings Smith Distinguished Professor of Economics, Management & Entrepreneurship—that will help to tackle family business education.

Burke also feels that that through the establishment of the Koch center and the family business initiative, the subject matter is being recognized as an important part of Olin Business School. While in the position, he wants to be a part of the team that animates the important role of family business in the U.S. economy.

Much like the mission of the Olin family business initiative, Burke places importance on business sustainability. Along with the other key players in the family business center, Burke will be the resident practitioner of family business issues.

As the executive in residence, he will be available for consultation at the request of students and will also be establishing office hours for the upcoming semester. He is excited for the opportunity to have more interaction with students in the family business program. This will allow for valuable, real-time analysis and problem solving in relation to real-life family business issues that students encounter. Burke feels that through more interaction, the program will achieve even greater success.




Investors hear a lot of pitches, but they only fund some startups. What criteria do they use?

First impressions, apparently.

Good looks matter, but not as much an entrepreneur’s perceived competence and confidence, a recent study indicates. In fact, if you’re only attractive and likeable, you’re likely to get a lower offer than someone who exudes confidence.

Xing Huang
Xing Huang

WashU Olin’s Xing Huang, assistant professor of finance, summed it up this way: “Nice people finish last.”

She teamed up with three researchers from Michigan State University to examine investors’ decision-making, and they came up with a novel idea for a laboratory: ABC’s reality TV show “Shark Tank.” The show features a panel of “shark” investors who hear business pitches from entrepreneur contestants. Then the sharks comment, ask questions and say if they’re interested in making a deal.

The researchers set out to explore the relation between two things: first impressions of “Shark Tank” contestants and the investors’ decisions. Toward that end, they manually collected data on 322 pitches during the first five seasons of the show, and they measured first impressions of contestants by asking a nationally representative 680 respondents about them.

Using the crowdsourcing marketplace Amazon Mechanical Turk, the respondents viewed photos of contestants and rated them along six dimensions considered important to entrepreneurs’ success: capability, confidence, trustworthiness, the ability to work under pressure, physical attractiveness and likeability.

The research team then swept those ratings into two principal components: competence/confidence and appearance/likability.

“The likelihood of receiving a shark’s offer is associated positively with both components,” Huang said. But it’s a different story when it comes to sharks’ putting their money where their mouths are. While sharks offered more cash and valuation to entrepreneurs who rated highly in competence and confidence, they actually offered less to entrepreneurs who rated more attractive and likable, according to the working paper “Swimming with the sharks: Entrepreneurial investing decisions and first impression.”

Maybe the investors think people who are likable will not be tough negotiators going forward, Huang said, so they make a lower offer.

“Business decisions are driven by both hard and soft information,” she said. Videos of the five seasons of “Shark Tank” offered the researchers an abundant set of variables including the likelihood of an investor making an offer, investors’ valuation of projects, and the funding structure. Unlike documents about entrepreneurs and ventures, the videos offered a spectrum of information on verbal and nonverbal cues, such as appearance and body language.

“Such rich information enables an investigation of the role of soft information in shaping investors’ decisions,” Huang said.

Increasingly startups are an engine of employment and the economy; young companies have created an average of 1.5 million jobs yearly over the past three years. Huang, whose research interests include behavioral finance and investor behavior, said she hopes the research will be helpful for entrepreneurs. “Understanding the decision-making process of the venture capitalist can help entrepreneurs better think about how they can get better funded,” she said.

Huang conducted the study with Michigan State University’s Zoran Ivković, MSU Federal Credit Union Endowed Chair in Financial Institutions/Investments and finance professor, and John (Xuefeng) Jiang and Isabel Yanyan Wang, both associate professors in accounting.




At a farewell reception in his honor, Cliff Holekamp greets Mahendra Gupta, the former Olin dean who hired him as the first full-time entrepreneurship professor for the business school.

Since starting work on his MBA at WashU Olin in 1999, Cliff Holekamp’s career has been deeply entwined with the campus.

Now, after he launched a startup as a student, earned that MBA in 2001, joined the faculty in 2008, taught entrepreneurship for nearly 12 years, started 14 courses in the discipline and helped more than 200 students launch their own startups, Holekamp says it’s time to disentangle himself from Olin.

Holekamp is retiring from his teaching post effective June 30 to work full-time at Cultivation Capital, the St. Louis-based venture capital firm he cofounded. Work there, he says, has become too consuming to fully focus on both that and his teaching responsibilities.

“I didn’t want to be the guy who is here in body, but not in spirit,” Holekamp said from his office in Simon Hall. “I wanted to leave knowing that I put everything into my job here every day.”

The news sparked an outpouring of reaction from former students, who praised Holekamp’s passion for their ideas and the way he urged them to test themselves.

“In him, I have found a champion—someone who believes in me and challenges me to surpass my own expectations,” said Nisa Qais, AB ’12, founder of Arya Mental Health, a San Francisco-based nonprofit. “He has been a defining highlight of my WashU experience, and I am beyond grateful for his continued presence in my life.”

Chisom Uche, AB ’10, who minored in entrepreneurship, added that “Cliff’s classes were unlike any I had taken. They tested not only creativity, but also the ability to execute within a team. Ultimately, Cliff’s classes prepared leaders for the real world.”

Getting real

Holekamp dove into “the real world” in the midst of his own MBA education when he founded a startup called Foot Healers, a one-stop shop for podiatric care. He later sold the business, though he remains connected as an adviser.

At the time, Olin Professor Bart Hamilton was teaching entrepreneurship part-time when the school offered only two courses—an introductory class and the Hatchery, designed as a launchpad for student startups. Hamilton brought on Holekamp as an adjunct to take on the intro course. He took on the Hatchery course when the instructor took ill.

Soon, former Dean Mahendra Gupta asked Holekamp to join the faculty full-time as Olin’s first dedicated entrepreneurship professor. He never looked back.

He codeveloped the entrepreneurship minor at WashU, pioneered off-campus courses with St. Louis’s Cortex and T-Rex incubators, advised senior campus leaders on entrepreneurship education, participated in searches for the Skandalaris Center’s director and the Olin dean (leading to Mark Taylor’s appointment) and a long list of other accomplishments.

“Cliff has made significant contributions to Olin,” Dean Taylor said in a tribute at Holekamp’s retirement reception. “Cultivation Capital’s gain is our great loss.”

“The school has been amazing in giving me the autonomy to build the entrepreneurship program and the freedom to collaborate with the other WashU schools and the community,” Holekamp said. “They saw the value of entrepreneurship for our students and for the strategy of the school.”

What’s endured, what’s changed

Reflecting on changes at the business school since he started, Holekamp still appreciates the intimate class sizes and personal relationship faculty members cultivate with students. At the same time, he’s thrilled at the expansion of courses, the early efforts to integrate entrepreneurship in the curriculum and the immersion of global experiences in courses and practicum projects. That’s an innovation he credits to the model pioneered in the weeklong venture consulting in Budapest course he launched.

“Getting entrepreneurship adopted as one of the four strategic pillars of the school is the capstone of my work at Olin,” Holekamp said. “We have worked to add the courses and programs needed to raise our entrepreneurship program from unranked to seventh in the country. The next phase will be to integrate entrepreneurship and innovation perspectives throughout the entire curriculum.”

Student reactions

“Cliff is a champion for his students and an ambassador for the road less traveled. While many of my classmates were pursuing more traditional post-MBA jobs, through Cliff’s guidance I was able to learn about career paths in the startup community.” Elise Hoffman, AB 2011, MBA 2016, principal at Cultivation Capital.

“He has always been direct, unambiguous and insightful when providing guidance or critique. I’ve worked with him for about five years at Cultivation Capital and Wash U (as a student and then employee) and his thoughts and opinions are always interesting to hear as they are very well formulated and succinct.” Matt Plummer, MBA ’18, principal, The Yield Lab.

“Cliff is like the ultimate matchmaker to connect people and talent in the WashU and STL startup space. As I was trying to grow a nonprofit, he helped me access resources I didn’t even realize existed.” Elise Hastings, MBA ’19, former managing director of Givable, transitioning after a move to Denver.

“Professor Clifford Holekamp is by far one of the most positive and powerful influence in my development as a young entrepreneur. No other professor has ever devoted such critical attention to my academic development, working with me to fine-tune my projects and offering feedback in ways that allowed me to mature.” Hannah Perl, BSBA ’17, account manager at Invisibly, a startup with Jim McKelvey.

Pictured above: At a farewell reception in his honor, Cliff Holekamp greets Mahendra Gupta, the former Olin dean who hired him as the first full-time entrepreneurship professor for the business school.




One is a financial economist with nine top research publications under his belt. Another has been lauded with some of the most prestigious research awards in marketing. And a third is internationally renowned for her work on how firms organize across borders and influence the global economy. All three are outstanding teachers. 

Soon, all three will join WashU Olin Business School—with tenure. Washington University’s Board of Trustees approved their appointments last month. Indeed, the board has commended Olin’s team for the care we take in recruiting top faculty. 

Brett Green, Song Yao and Minyuan Zhao begin in July. These three professors, recruited by our excellent Olin faculty, have proven themselves as accomplished researchers and skilled teachers. They’re hitting it out of the park.

The faculty at WashU Olin continually raise the bar for whom we hire to join their ranks. Expectations are high for research productivity at WashU Olin. And we are recognized for our efforts: The Financial Times ranks us 12th in the world for excellence in research productivity. Indeed, the opportunity to join our world-class faculty and benefit from our world-class facilities is a significant draw. And we aim to get even stronger. 

Todd Milbourn, vice dean of faculty and research, is heading up our hiring strategy, which includes a tactical, five-year look ahead into the hiring needs for each academic area of the school: accounting, economics, finance, marketing, organizational behavior, operations and manufacturing management, and strategy.

“If you want to do world-leading research, you need world-leading scholars,” Todd said. “Instead of going solely after the rookie market—newly minted PhDs—we are making sure we are also recruiting professors who can move the research needle from the minute they step onto campus.”

So, the strategy is to systematically recruit seasoned and senior faculty who have a record of producing top research—scholars who are already well advanced in terms of their research excellence and productivity. It also includes identifying gaps in our research capabilities and expanding our expertise in areas such as entrepreneurship, innovation, healthcare and business analytics. And it includes driving greater diversity among our faculty.

And in areas where we have attracted tenured faculty, it will be important to continue to bring in rookies. Put in business terms, we want to better balance our portfolio—or, as Todd has said, “We want an even deeper bench of greatness.”

That greatness applies equally to teaching. With great research comes the expectation that new faculty members will be great instructors, bringing their cutting-edge business insights to the classroom and preparing our students for the world as it will be rather than the world as it is.

Recruiting can be challenging, to be sure. While we’re out recruiting, we know other universities are as well. We are working to do all we can to retain the talented faculty we have by providing the resources, recognition and opportunity to recharge they are due.

But what I’m excited about the most is the biggest opportunity that comes with continually and collaboratively building on our world-class faculty: Living up to the vision of our school by enhancing the world-changing research, teaching and impact of WashU Olin.