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What a Wharton professor’s viral tweet really reveals

January 24, 2022, 11:33 AM UTC

Good morning,

A tweet that has gone viral should make the finance world stop and think.

There are students at one of the most prestigious business schools in the U.S. who think a salary of at least $100,000 a year is the norm for workers. Nina Strohminger, a legal studies and business law professor at The Wharton School, said in a recent tweet: “I asked Wharton students what they thought the average American worker makes per year, and 25% of them thought it was over six figures. One of them thought it was $800,000. Really not sure what to make of this. (The real number is $45,000).”

Yes, you’ve read that right.

Strohminger continued: “A lot of people want to conclude that this says something special about Wharton students—I’m not sure it does. People are notoriously bad at making this kind of estimate, thinking the gap between rich and poor is smaller than it is. This was indeed why I asked b-school students. I was curious if they were as biased as everyone else.” 

I contacted Strohminger for further insight but have not yet received a reply. However, Wharton Dean Erika James talked about the tweet in a LinkedIn post on Friday. “It’s likely some student responses were representative of what we psychologists call the ‘anchoring effect’ or having our personal experiences and backgrounds serve as reference points for how we view the world,” James explained. “And while we cannot change where we come from, we can and should work to understand where others are coming from.”

She noted educators have the responsibility to create opportunities for personal views to be part of meaningful discourse. Strohminger did not say whether she was teaching an undergraduate or graduate class. But James offered statistics for undergraduates. Nearly half are female, and 20% are non-U.S. citizens. In the class of 2025, more than 60% self-identify as students of color and 12% are first generation, James wrote.

Strohminger also tweeted a link to the report, How Much (More) Should CEOs Make? A Universal Desire for More Equal PayThe researchers set out to answer the question: do individuals from different countries and backgrounds have similar preferences for how much more the rich should earn than the poor? They found individuals across the globe and “from all walks of life would prefer smaller pay gaps between the rich and poor.” That’s encouraging. But future finance leaders are really the ones who should be pointing out the existence of large pay gaps.

“Oh, good. I went viral,” Strohminger said on Twitter. I’m glad her tweet went viral, too. Not to shame students or slam Wharton as many social media users are doing. I think the tweet serves as another red flag to our collective society that inequalities are being glossed over.

For instance, the wealth gap, globally, has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new report by Oxfam Policy and Practice. “The wealth of the 10 richest men has doubled, while the incomes of 99% of humanity are worse off,” the report stated.

A new Fortune opinion piece points to a survey by Edelman that found in the U.S., Black, Latinx, and Asian respondents reported disproportionate discrimination across the financial services spectrum. Areas include banking, asset management, mortgage, auto lending, and insurance. “This ingrained partiality imposes barriers to entrepreneurship and wealth creation, and it prevents later generations from building on prior generations’ success,” the Edelman execs wrote. 

For the next generation of financial leaders to solve these complex problems, it will require not only educators but employers to guide the way.  



See you tomorrow.

Sheryl Estrada
sheryl.estrada@fortune.com

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Big deal

The Business Intelligence Landscape, a new report commissioned by Sisense, an A.I.-driven analytics platform, found 86% of product decision-makers said offering data and analytics is vital for customer satisfaction and loyalty. However, 41% of respondents cited legal and compliance requirements as major barriers to implementation. Meanwhile, 38% said their customers have difficulty accessing information, and 30% said it's challenging to get the executive support to build what's needed. The survey of 503 product decision-makers in the U.S. with the title of director or higher was conducted by The Harris Poll. A respondents’ company must have also delivered their product or service through tech platform or software application and serve B2B or B2C customers, according to Sisense.

Courtesy of Sisense

Going deeper

The report, What history tells us the stock market will do in 2022 by Ben Carlson, included in Fortune's Quarterly Investment Guide, shares some insight on how can investors better prepare for markets that are impossible to accurately predict. "One way to help frame the future is by looking to the past for answers to see the range of outcomes you can expect when investing in the stock market," writes Carlson. "From 1928 to 2021, the annual return for the U.S. stock market is 9.9% per year. But the return investors experience year in and year out is rarely close to the long-term averages." Find out more here.

Leaderboard

Yemi Okupe was named CFO at Hims & Hers Health, Inc. (NYSE: HIMS), the multi-specialty telehealth platform. Since June 2021, Okupe has served as CFO of Hipcamp. He previously served as a divisional CFO at Uber, first in charge of UberEats, and later of Uber’s global mobility unit, which included ridesharing, transit, and micro mobility services across 60 countries. Okupe has also served in a number of financial leadership positions at eBay and PayPal, including as Divisional CFO of Braintree, and Google, where he was the finance lead for Google Payments and Google Express.

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Overheard

"For the fastest growing sector of wealth and asset management, there is a lack of trained supply of talent."

—Tara Joseph, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, on the city's talent crunch, as reported by Reuters

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