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Ignorance as Equality: Addressing Sex and Race Discrimination at Work

With Naomi Schoenbaum

Although laws banning discrimination at work have led to significant progress, women and minority workers still have not achieved equality.  Discrimination in hiring and discrimination in pay are two areas where inequality remains most firmly in place.  Frustrated by a lack or progress in these areas, lawmakers and businesses have increasingly relied on secrecy related to the race and sex of workers to try to prevent discrimination against them.  For example, in an effort to combat the gender pay gap, a number of states now have laws that prohibit businesses from asking applicants their salary history.  But research suggests that sometimes relying on ignorance to address discrimination does not work, and may even backfire.  This talk will address the state of race and sex discrimination at work, evaluate some of the new measures meant to combat discrimination, and consider other ways we might better fight discrimination at work.


Naomi Schoenbaum is an Associate Professor of Law at George Washington University Law School whose research centers on employment law, family law, antidiscrimination law, and gender. Her work has addressed the legal regulation of critical but often overlooked relationships in the market, such as those between coworkers and those between workers and customers, as well as the design of employment discrimination law.  Her current research is focused on discrimination and intimacy in the sharing economy, unsexing the law of pregnancy, and the law’s increasing turn to ignorance to achieve antidiscrimination goals. Her work has appeared in numerous law journals, as well as popular publications such as Slate and The Atlantic.   

Professor Schoenbaum is a graduate of Harvard Law School, where she served as Editor-in-Chief of the Harvard Journal of Law & Gender, and Yale University, where she served as Editor-in-Chief of Aurora magazine. Prior to joining the law faculty, Professor Schoenbaum was a Bigelow Fellow at the University of Chicago Law School, a law clerk to the Honorable Karen Nelson Moore of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, a Women’s Law and Public Policy Fellow, and a litigation associate at the law firm Sidley Austin.

Join us in the Applebarn on Fridays for artist talks, guest lectures, residency presentations, roundtable discussions and engaging conversations on art, ecology, food, philosophy and more!  

Earlier Event: August 12
Baking With Luke: Bagels