Hopkins Case


Ann Hopkins was an accomplished college professor, mathematical physicist, and systems management consultant working at Hollins College, IBM, NASA and the accounting firm of Touch Ross. In August of 1978 Hopkins began working for Price Waterhouse (PW), another national accounting firm as a manager in the Management Advisory Services.

PW specialized in auditing, tax and management consulting with offices worldwide. The partnership ranks included 662 partners in the United States and approximately 2600 partners worldwide.

The partners were elected by the senior partner and a policy board through a formal, annual nomination and review process, which was followed by a partnership-wide vote. Once partnership was attained, it was in essence a lifetime appointment with very few exceptions.

Nominated for partner in August of 1982, Hopkins was rejected and eventually told she would never make partner at PW. Her fellow partnership class consisted of 87 other candidates of which Hopkins was the only woman. Of the nominated class, 47 were offered partnership, 21 were rejected and 20, including Hopkins, were placed on “Hold.” Hopkins was later told that it was unlikely she would ever be selected as a partner. She subsequently quit PW and filed suite against the partnership alleging gender based discrimination.

During her employment with Price Waterhouse Hopkins proved herself a capable, dedicated employee. She generated more billable hours than any other candidate in her partnership class. She also had a record of securing major contracts that far exceeded those of her contemporaries.

When Hopkins investigated the reasoning for her “hold” status she was told that much of the decision was based on her interpersonal skills, or lack there of, when working with co-workers and clients. One partner criticized Hopkins for acting too "macho" while another claimed that she "overcompensated for being a woman." Yet another partner suggested that Hopkins "take a course at charm school," and the firm\'s Policy Board, after informing Hopkins of her rejection, recommended that she "walk, talk, dress and appear more feminine.”

There were other comments made from many of the people Hopkins had worked with during her time at PW. Many of these were concerned with her lack of staff management skills. Over all, Hopkins reviews were mixed. She demonstrated excellent drive and task accomplishment, but had the tendency to push her staff too hard and didn’t show the tact expected of a partner.

Legal Analysis

Did PW violate employment law by passing Hopkins over for promotion?

Were any of Hopkins’ civil rights violated?


United States labor laws are designed to protect workers from unfair acts of management. These laws deal primarily with the circumstances under which an employee can be terminated, what rights workers have to organize, and how management and labor should deal with one another as well as other protections against reprisals against employees for certain acts. The circumstances in the Hopkins case are not concerned with any of these practices and do not raise an issue under these statues.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 (CRA) is an important piece of legislation that attempts to end discrimination against members of a protected class, which includes discrimination based on color, religion, race, sex and national origin. In this case it is necessary to determine if sex/gender was a factor in the denial of promotion.

The case indicates Hopkins had a mixed record of success while with PW. Hopkins’ record shows she was able to complete tasks and in many cases exceeded her peers in measurable results in both billable hours and engagement procurement. The record also shows that there were doubts about her ability to function effectively as a partner. She was noted to lack interpersonal skills required of partners and showed a tendency toward abuse of subordinates. Had this been the only criterion evidenced during the selection process, Hopkins would have been denied partnership and would have most likely not sought or gained legal recourse. Unfortunately for PW, it was not.

Hopkins was noted for being “rough on people” by one partner in his general comments and offered the opinion that this might be because she “may have overcompensated for being a woman.”

Another of the partners Hopkins worked with advised her to, “soften her image in the in which