Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Using Influence Strategies to Promote Gender Equality

by: Paula J. Caproni, Cindy A. Schipani

Publication Date: February 22, 2022
Length: 22 pages
Product ID#: 7-866-854

Core Disciplines: Communications, Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion, Ethics, Leadership/Organizational Behavior, Negotiations, Social Impact, Strategy & Management

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Teaching Note

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This case study focuses on how Ruth Bader Ginsburg (“RBG”)—when she was a professor and attorney early in her career, before becoming an appellate judge and Supreme Court Justice—used influence strategies to argue and win one of the earliest successful sex discrimination cases, Moritz v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue. Although this case study describes the most relevant and interesting details of Moritz, its chief aim is to direct students’ attention to those influence strategies and how she developed them.

Charles Moritz was a never-married man who took care of his elderly and infirm mother in his home. He employed a caretaker to help him provide her with non-specialized but critical daily care so that he could continue to work at his job in the publishing industry, a job that included travel. At the time (1968), the Internal Revenue Service allowed women and widowers (“widowers” included divorced men) to take a $600 tax deduction to defray some of the costs of employing someone to take care of “a child under the age of 12” or “a disabled relative of any age” in their home so that they could continue to remain employed. Moritz claimed the deduction on his tax return, but the IRS said he did not qualify for it. RBG and her legal team argued the case on behalf of Moritz and won.

The overarching questions students are asked to address are these: How did RBG persuade the federal judges (three men) to go against the legal and societal status quo of the time? How did this relatively young woman and her legal team prevail over the federal attorneys arguing on behalf of the Internal Revenue Service?

Teaching Objectives

After reading and discussing the material, students should:

  • Describe the importance of Moritz in challenging social norms and legal precedent that allowed discrimination on the basis of gender.
  • Analyze the influence strategies that RBG, together with her husband, tax attorney Martin D. Ginsburg, and the rest of the legal team used to ultimately win the Moritz case, with a specific emphasis on the seven universal forms of influence described by social psychologist Robert Cialdini: authority, liking, consensus, social proof, scarcity, reciprocity, and unity.
  • Apply what they have learned about developing and using influence strategies to their own lives.