James Ornath read the latest sales figures with a great deal of satisfaction. The vice president of marketing at Nupath Foods, Inc., was pleased to see that the marketing campaign to improve sagging sales of Prowess cat food was working. Sales volume of the product had increased 20 percent in the past quarter compared with the previous year and market share was up.
The improved sales of Prowess could be credited to Denise Washington, the brand manager responsible for cat foods at Nupath.
Washington had joined Nupath less than two years ago as an assistant brand manager after leaving a similar job at a consumer products firm. She was one of the few women in marketing management at Nupath and had a promising career with the company. Ornath was pleased with Washington’s work and tried to let her know this in the annual performance reviews. He now had an excellent opportunity to reward her by offering the recently vacated position of market research coordinator.
Although technically only a lateral research was not the route to top management in most organizations, Washington thought. She had been sidelined.
After a long silence, Washington managed a weak “Than you Mr. Ornath.” She was too bewildered to protest. She wanted to collect her thoughts and reflect on what she had done wrong. Also, she did not know her boss well enough to be openly critical. Ornath recognized Washington’s surprise, which he naturally assumed was her positive response to hearing of this wonderful career opportunity. He, too, had been delighted several years earlier about his temporary transfer to marketing research to round out his marketing experience. “this move will be good for both you and Nupath,” said Ornath as he escorted Washington from his office.
Washington had several tasks to complete that afternoon but was able to consider the day’s events that evening. She was one of the top women in brand management at Nupath and feared that she was being sidelined because the company didn’t want women in top management. Her previous employer had made it quite transfer with a modest salary increase, the marketing research coordinator job would give Washington broader experience in some high-profile work, which would enhance her career with Nupath. Few people were aware that Ornath’s own career had been boosted by working as marketing research coordinator at Nupath several years before.
Denise Washington had also seen the latest sales figures on Prowess cat food and was expecting Ornath’s call to meet with her that morning. Oranth began the conversation by briefly mentioning the favorable sales figures, and then explained that he wanted Washington to take the marketing research coordinator job. Washington was shocked by the news. She enjoyed brand management and particularly the challenge involved with controlling a product that directly affected the company’s profitability. Marketing research coordinator was a technical support position—a “backroom” job—far removed from the company’s bottom-line activities.
Marketing clear that women “couldn’t take the heat” in marketing management and tended to place women in technical support position after a brief term in lower brand management jobs. Obviously, Nupath was following the same game plan. Ornath’s comments that the coordinator job would be good for her was just a nice way of saying that Washington couldn’t go any further in brand management at Nupath. Washington was now faced with the difficult decision of confronting Ornath and trying to change Nupath’s sexist practices or submitting her resignation.
Discussion Question :
1. What symptom(s) exist in this case to suggest that something has gone wrong? 2. Diagnose the underlying problems that have led to these symptoms. 3. What actions should the organization take to correct these problems?