Campus Team Completes Workshops on Racial Equity, Future of Work

UMass Amherst: News Archive

An interdisciplinary team led by sociologist Laurel Smith-Doerr, director of the Institute for Social Science Research (ISSR), is completing its final report for the National Science Foundation (NSF) following a series of three NSF-funded workshops on understanding emerging technologies, racial equity and the future of work.The other team members are Enobong (Anna) Branch, associate chancellor for equity and inclusion and chief diversity officer; Shlomo Zilberstein, associate dean for research and engagement and professor, College of Information and Computer Sciences; Henry Renski, associate professor of landscape architecture and regional planning and ISSR associate director; and Shannon Roberts, assistant professor of mechanical and industrial engineering.
“Technological change is not necessarily neutral,” Renski said. “The one thing that seems to be clear, is that the people whose jobs tend to be more threatened have lower levels of education, and there is a racial dimension to it.”
In March, the team members held an internal workshop at which scholars on campus were able to share their expertise and helped develop questions for the next meeting.
In April, the team convened a two-day session with approximately 40 social scientists, computer scientists, engineers and influential professionals from across the country for the second of three meetings funded by the grant. It included a keynote address by computer scientist Moshe Vardi of Rice University and Branch’s presentation “A Critical Reflection on Racial Inequalities in the U.S. Workforce and the future of Work.”
Breakout sessions included Renski on the “spatial mismatch” between where low-income workers live and where their jobs are; Roberts on driving and automation; Branch on the intersectionality of race, gender and skill; Zilberstein on artificial intelligence and the future of work; and Smith-Doer on knowledge production.
On June 18, the team conducted a workshop at the UMass Club in Boston, to which it invited
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