Olin Conference to Focus on Workplace Discrimination

April 15, 2009 — Experts from a variety of fields will meet at the University of Virginia School of Law on Friday and Saturday to identify the best ways to combat workplace discrimination as part of the 2009 John M. Olin Conference.

A half-century of legal and regulatory efforts have failed to create a consensus on the best ways to promote equality in the workplace, according to law professor Gregory Mitchell, who will moderate a panel at the conference.

"Governments and private organizations spend tremendous amounts of money to address workplace inequality, yet inequalities persist," Mitchell said. "Is this because the nature of discrimination has changed, because our human capital policies are incomplete, because companies are not truly committed to fighting discrimination, because existing public and private remedies are ineffective and may even backfire, or is there some truth in each of these perspectives?"

The conference will bring together leading scholars from economics, law, political science, psychology, sociology and statistics to tackle these questions and synthesize what works and what does not work in combating workplace discrimination.

The conference's second aim will be to identify ways to communicate these practices to best help employers, employees, courts and policymakers.

Conference Schedule

Friday, April 17

9 a.m.-noon: Panel discussion: "Sources and Mechanisms of Discrimination: Theory and Evidence"
What are the sources and mechanisms of workplace discrimination? What are the sources and mechanisms of racial and gender disparities within the workplace other than discrimination?

•    Moderator: Chris Winship, Department of Sociology, Harvard University
•    Roberto Fernandez, Sloan School of Management, M.I.T.
•    Elizabeth Gorman, Department of Sociology, University of Virginia
•    Brian Nosek, Department of Psychology, University of Virginia
•    Trond Petersen, Department of Sociology, University of California, Berkeley
•    Lauren Rivera, Department of Sociology, Harvard University

(10:30 a.m.: Break)

1:30-5 p.m. Panel discussion: "Regulation of the Workplace: Theory and Evidence"
What are effective psychological and organizational checks on stereotyping and prejudice? What are the risks of over- and under-correction associated with different regulatory approaches? Are consciousness-raising and procedural-accountability measures more than symbolic gestures?

•    Moderator: Gregory Mitchell, School of Law, University of Virginia
•    Jamie Barden, Department of Psychology, Howard University
•    Elizabeth Levy Paluck, Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies, Harvard University
•    Philip E. Tetlock, Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley

(3 p.m.: Break)

Saturday, April 18

9 a.m.-noon: Panel discussion: "Dealing with Uncertainty: How Should Researchers and Courts Proceed?"
Are current legislative responses to workplace discrimination adequate? Does current legislation place too great an emphasis on individualized litigation and too little emphasis on structural solutions and human capital development? What role should laboratory experiments, field studies, econometric studies and social experiments play in research on workplace discrimination and its remedies? How should existing general social science research be used in litigation and policy formulation? What incentives or regulatory measures can be put in place to avoid needless expert battles and ensure candor on the part of expert witnesses?

•    Moderator: Philip E. Tetlock, Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley
•    Eugene Borgida, Department of Psychology, University of Minnesota
•    Glenn Loury, Department of Economics, Brown University
•    Gregory Mitchell, School of Law, University of Virginia
•    Sarah Turner, Department of Economics, University of Virginia
•    Chris Winship, Department of Sociology, Harvard University

(10:30 a.m.: Break)

Noon: Lunch