Reimagining Work

Leadership for Society
Reimagining Work

During the fall of 2021, Stanford Graduate School of Business’ Prof. Brian Lowery hosted a series of conversations entitled Reimagining Work Post-COVID which examined new ways to think about work in light of the changes prompted by the pandemic. 

Session 1

Sept. 20th, 2021 6:30 pm PST

Flexible for whom?: Work Equity Post-COVID

While the pandemic upended the world of work for all of us, it also highlighted disparities in risk, wages, and stability for workers across sectors. Frontline employees throughout the pandemic have often been the first to face cutbacks and low-wages, while also disproportionately carrying the burden of risk to exposure. Make no mistake, for the care, agriculture, and service industries, as well as so many others, these disparities have always existed and work has consistently been undervalued. How might we reimagine work with a view to better equity post-COVID?

Aquilina Soriano Versoza

Executive Director, Pilipino Workers Center of Southern California

Session 2

SEPT. 27TH, 2021 6:30 PM PST

Work Environment: Who Makes All the Decisions?

The aging population of the U.S. and world underscores the need to reassess foundational parts of our work culture. From longer careers, to multigenerational teams, to the divide in decision making power, age is an increasing factor in how jobs are allocated and how work is accomplished. As we continue to adapt to COVID, who will own the decision power to reimagine work?

Laura Carstensen

Founding Director, Stanford Center on Longevity

Jennifer Liu

Journalist for CNBC

Manu Meel

Executive Director, BridgeUSA

Session 3

OCT. 4, 2021 6:30 PM PST

Citizens & Workers: Education in a Capitalist Democracy

The U.S. economy is intricately tied to the education of its workforce. COVID highlighted the persistent challenges in our schools, including unequal access, segregated classrooms, and a growing student debt crisis, calling into question the purpose of education and the responsibility of business, government and philanthropy for providing it. In a republic and capitalist economy that depends on an educated citizenry, how should we reimagine education at this critical time?

Rachel Carlson

Co-founder and CEO, Guild Education

David Osborn

Author of Reinventing America’s Schools

Session 4

OCT. 11TH, 2021 6:30 PM PST

Firing the Office, Freeing the Workers

Work consumes most of our days and guides many decisions in our lives. Following the COVID-19 pandemic, employers lost some of their grip on white collar workers when people discovered that work could be done from anywhere and decided to fire the office. How many more ways are workers held captive by work? Who will see the benefits of this new flexibility? Is the office done for good?

Karen Alma Arnold

Karen Arnold

Head of Talent Acquisition at Automattic

Anu Partanen

Journalist and the author of "The Nordic Theory of Everything"

Session 5

OCT. 18TH, 2021 6:30 PM PST

Worker Power

With the lowest-paid workers at the highest-risk for COVID exposure and for wage loss, the pandemic propelled workers rights issues to the forefront once again. But the inequities of our economy are nothing new. We live in an age of rapid technological change and outsourcing of U.S. manufacturing that threatens to leave many workers behind. What does the future of worker protections look like? How can we protect dignity and fairness in work?

Roy Bahat

Head, Bloomberg Beta

Mary Kay Henry

International President, SEIU

Session 6

OCT. 25TH, 2021 6:30 PM PST ​​

Rethinking Gigs, Redefining Careers

These days, everything from rides and food, to graphic design and copy editing can be accessed in near real time. Gig work is on the rise and is revolutionizing not just how we live, but how we work. How did the gig economy adapt through the pandemic? Might it provide a model to reimagine work post COVID?

Melissa Valentine

Associate Professor, Stanford University

Samuel Bright

Chief Product and Experience Officer, Upwork

Session 7

NOV. 1ST, 2021 6:30 PM PST ​​

Who’s Responsible?: Business, Government and Philanthropy

As the COVID-19 pandemic raged, some business leaders saw it as their responsibility to help their workers in these unprecedented and trying times. Others welcomed the intervention of governments and the charity of philanthropists. The roles and responsibilities ascribed to business, government, and philanthropy in caring for individuals is a foundational debate within the U.S. and Western democracies. While the form of this debate has changed with the times, the underlying question remains the same: who is responsible?

Aisha Nyandoro

CEO, Springboard to Opportunities

William E. Spriggs

Chief Economist, AFL-CIO; Professor, Howard University

Session 8

NOV. 8TH, 2021 6:30 PM PST ​​

Broken Paths to Economic Mobility

How far will working hard take you in today’s American society? Based on the experience of the frontline workers we called heroes during COVID, not very far. As the wealth divide continues to deepen and class and race inequities are exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the American dream of upward mobility has been called into question. Can one make it simply by trying? This Monday, Professor Brian Lowery talks about mobility and wealth with Christina Sass, the co-founder of Andela, and Laura Maristany, the director External Affairs of Bitwise Industries.

Christina Sass

Co-founder, Andela

Laura Maristany

Director External Affairs, Bitwise Industries

Session 9

NOV. 15TH, 2021 6:30 PM PST ​​

“No Place for That in the Office…”: Activism in the Workplace

The expectations for leaders across sectors to engage with issues of social and political importance are growing. As leaders navigate these public responsibilities, tensions have arisen between management and employees around the proper role of politics in the office. Should employers be allowed to ban politics in the workplace? Should employees be able to revolt against their bosses when they don’t? Where does the workplace end and politics begin? 

John Russ

Global marketing leader and former Head of Global Marketing for Coinbase

Jason Fried

CEO, Basecamp

Session 10

NOV. 29TH, 2021 6:30 PM PST ​​

Interconnected: Work in the Global Economy

Opportunity is unevenly distributed around the world, yet - as the pandemic so clearly illustrated - we are all interconnected and dependent on each other. Given the ever-more connected world we live in, how should we reimagine the economy?

Condoleezza Rice

66th US Secretary of State and current Director of the Hoover Institution


Session 11

DEC. 6th, 2021 6:30 PM PST ​​

Working for What?: Reimagining the Meaning of Work

Humanity is facing multiple, once-in-a-generation challenges simultaneously. Climate change, a pandemic, inequality, the impact of rapid technological innovation, all demand that we examine the economic systems and structures we are operating within. In this time of unprecedented change, how might we reimagine work? 

Darren Walker

President, Ford Foundation