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Gray Areas: how the way we work maintains racial inequality

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Adia Wingfield outside, with a blurred university building in the background

Join Prof Adia Wingfield (Washington University in St Louis) for a Faculty of Business and Law Dean's Lecture on the sociological dynamics of work that continue to impede Black employees’ progress.

60+ years since the US Civil Rights Act, and decades into the mainstreaming of DEI programming, racial disparities in the workplace still persist. Black workers experience extensive wage inequality, remain less likely to be hired, stall out at midlevel positions, and rarely advance to the top ranks of organisations.

To explain this seeming paradox, Prof Wingfield's book Gray Areas introduces the concept of “gray areas” to highlight the sociological dynamics of work that continue to impede Black employees’ progress. Following narratives of seven Black workers in fields ranging from academia to medicine to entertainment, she shows unexpected ways that basic aspects of work are themselves major contributors to racial inequality.


Prof Adia Harvey Wingfield is the Mary Tileston Hemenway Professor of Arts & Sciences and Vice Dean for Faculty Development and Diversity at Washington University in St. Louis, where she also co-directs the Program for Public Scholarship.

Her research examines how racial and gender inequality persists in professional occupations and has been published in numerous peer-reviewed journals including Annual Review of Sociology, American Journal of Sociology, and American Sociological Review.

She is the 2019 winner of the C. Wright Mills Award from the Society for the Study of Social Problems (SSSP); a Fellow for the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR); and a member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences (AAAS).

Her most recent book, Gray Areas: How the Way We Work Perpetuates Racism and What We Can Do to Fix It, was named one of Publisher’s Weekly’s best books of 2023. In 2024 she will begin a term as the 116th President of the American Sociological Association (ASA).

This event takes place in SCI105 in the Science Centre on our Cambridge campus.

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