Reducing Organizational Inequality: A Paradoxical Approach


Thursday, February 14, 2019, 11:45am to 1:00pm


Ellwood Democracy Lab, Rubenstein 414

Susan Sturm, George M. Jaffin Professor of Law and Social Responsibility; Founding Director, Center for Institutional and Social Change, Columbia Law School

In this seminar, Susan Sturm will propose a framework for understanding and addressing structural inequality in organizations. Drawing on action research projects in a variety of organizations and a forthcoming paper she is co-authoring with Robin Ely, she will first catalogue the features of prevailing research and intervention approaches that unwittingly reproduce rather than reduce inequality. Much of the scholarship documents some unavoidable tension that makes advancing equality challenging because basically there doesn’t seem to be a solution: no matter what you do, inequality remains or even grows. She will then identify a set of interlocking paradoxes that provide a starting point for breaking this impasse, suggesting that the contradictory yet interdependent elements built into addressing structural inequality must and can be embraced rather than avoided, circumvented, or reconciled.  Finally, she will offer three principles to guide research and change efforts aimed at reducing structural inequality, linked by a “both/and” approach that embraces paradox as a driver of sustainable change.