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Symposium Brings Together Experts on Inequality

Professors and researchers from across the country delivered interdisciplinary talks on problems of inequality at the first-ever Inequality in America Symposium held at Loeb House on Friday.

This year’s conference featured four sessions altogether, all aimed at addressing inequality in a variety of sectors, including employment, healthcare, immigration, and civil rights. Each session tackled a different theme within a range of inequalities.

The first symposium session focused on “Governance, Citizenship and Social Justice,” and addressed systemic power imbalances that often generate inequality. Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana, a sociologist whose work studies inequality in the workplace, attended the first symposium.

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Khurana said his scholarship motivated him to attend Friday’s event, adding he is currently writing a book about how globalization and class hierarchies reproduce income and other social inequalities.

“Working on areas of how inequality operates in labor markets and through institutions is something that I do my scholarly work on,” he said.

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Scholars discussed inequality in the workplace and in the family during the second session, where professors argued that social mobility is often limited by generational factors and the family that one is born into.

In the last two sessions, professors discussed inequality stemming from opportunity gaps in science, technology, education, and health care. One researcher, for example, spoke about a gender bias in STEM fields.

University of California Hastings School of Law professor Joan Williams said she observed patterns of racial and gender discrimination in her work. She found that black women in science, harboring a double minority status, are typically at a disadvantage.

“One woman had had an eraser thrown at her by a colleague who said, ‘Maybe now you’ll understand,’” Williams said, discussing findings from one of her studies.

In the final symposium session, professors discussed “mobility and migration,” and how inequalities from around the world can be replicated within U.S. borders.

Claudine Gay, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences’ Dean of Social Sciences who organized the symposium, said the event is the start of a larger initiative to jumpstart more scholarship and collaboration on social issues. She added that FAS will start a post-doctoral program in this field next year.

“The initiative itself covers a range of different themes, and we’re trying to offer a snapshot of all those themes,” Gay said. “The idea here is to bring in more scholars who are primarily concentrating in inequality, and have them join our community, and maybe also catalyze new research by joining us in various collaborations.”

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