Business and the Challenges of Inequality

Date & Time:
Friday, March 27, 2015 - 12:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Soda Activity Center: Plaza, 1928 St. Marys Road, Moraga, CA 94575
View a map and get directions.

RSVP Required

Inequality in societies that arise from wide variations in access to resources has been linked with many social problems such as physical and mental illness, incarceration, fragmented families and communities, teenage pregnancies and a significant loss of potential talent in the workplace. Many have also linked current income inequality levels to slow economic recovery from the Great Recession. It has also been linked to inadequate labor productivity (and some sector shortages of qualified employees) due to uneven educational preparation. It is also linked to a massive shortfall in retirement savings and investment. One measurable level of inequality is that due to huge variations in incomes and wealth, a concern for many people across the political spectrum. President Obama called it the “Defining Challenge of Our Time.” 

How do inequality trends affect businesses?  What is the role of businesses and what measures can they take to address this challenge?  Are some businesses part of the problem?  The purpose of this conference is to bring together people in academe, business, government and the general public to engage in a dialog on this topic, to consider what actions might counter inequality trends, and become inspired to take action.  This is part of the Elfenworks Center for Responsible Business’s mission to promote collaboration, shared inquiry and innovation in pursuit of responsible business practices.


Soda Activity Center, Saint Mary's College of California
1928 Saint Mary's Road, Moraga, 94575


Saint Mary's is an active campus. Please leave yourself time to find parking in one of our visitor lots highlighted on the campus map. 


12:30 to 1 p.m. Registration
1 to 2:30 p.m.

Panelists: Brahm Ahmadi, Thomas Massaro, Ann Huff Stevens
Moderator: J. Tomas Gomez-Arias

2:30 to 2:45 p.m.  Refreshment Break
2:45 to 4 p.m. Workshops: 
  • Inequality, Sustainability, and Business
  • Breaking the Code of Gender Implicit Bias
  • Aligning Head, Heart and Hands in Business and Society
  • Investments & Inequality
  • Religion & Business!!!?? Mobilizing Interfaith Leadership to Tackle the
    Religious Inequality Elephant in the Room 
4 to 4:25 p.m.  Workshop Outcome Presentations
4:25 to 4:45 p.m. Refreshment Break
4:45 to 5:40 p.m. Keynote Speaker Chris Lu
Moderator: Jim Hawley
5:45 to 6:30 p.m. Networking Reception
Appetizers and refreshments will be served.  


This event is open to all. Ticket prices are below. 
Free for Saint Mary's College current students, faculty, staff, presenters, advisory board members and donors.
$10 for Saint Mary's College alumni 
$20 for All other guests*
*15 free tickets on first come first-served basis for full time students from other colleges. 


Brahm Ahmadi  brahm ahmadiis a social entrepreneur working to build healthier and more equitable inner city communities by creating change to the food system. In 2003, he co-founded People’s Grocery, a nonprofit organization that has attracted national attention for its effort to transform inner city food systems through projects in food enterprise, urban agriculture, and nutrition education that include the nation’s first Mobile Market. In 2010, Brahm founded People’s Community Market to create a fresh food retail business model that fosters health and social interaction in low-income communities. He’s also piloting a model for enabling the general public to invest in mission-driven companies and local communities. Brahm has a B.A. in Sociology from the University of California and an MBA from the Presidio Graduate School. He is a Food and Community Fellow at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy and a Fellow at Food First: Institute for Food and Development Policy. 

Father Thomas Massaro  Father thomas Massaro is a Jesuit priest of the New England Province who is dean of Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University. His work in Christian social ethics draws upon wide-ranging studies in political science, economics, philosophy and theology. Among the topics his books, articles and lectures have addressed in recent years are welfare reform, globalization, peacemaking, environmental concern, and the ethics of voting and patriotism. He enjoys speaking at academic conferences, diocesan workshops and parish settings on topics of social justice and civic responsibility. Fr. Massaro's teaching interests include Catholic social ethics, theories of economic justice, sociology of religion and the history of Christian political thought. His research focuses on how Catholic social teaching can contribute to a constructive consensus on responsible public policies.

Ann Huff Stevens  ann huff stevensis Professor of Economics and Director, Center for Poverty Research; Interim Dean, Graduate School of Management, UC Davis.  Dr. Stevens studies low income workers and labor markets, the incidence and effects of job loss, connections between economic shocks and health, and poverty and safety-net dynamics. Stevens previously served on the faculty at Rutgers and Yale Universities and is a faculty research associate with the National Bureau of Economic Research. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 1995 and has served as an investigator on numerous grants from the National Science Foundation and other agencies.  Stevens’ current research includes studies of the relationship between job loss and health, the relationship between aggregate unemployment rates and mortality, and the returns to technical and vocational education. 

Keynote speaker:

Chris Lu  chris luwas sworn in as the Deputy Secretary of the Department of Labor on April 4, 2014, after being confirmed unanimously by the U.S. Senate. He serves as the chief operating officer of a 17,000-employee organization that works to create greater opportunities for all Americans.

During his career in public service, Lu has worked in all three branches of the federal government. From 2009 to 2013, Lu served as the White House Cabinet Secretary and Assistant to the President. In this role, he was President Obama's primary liaison to the federal departments and agencies, helping to coordinate policy and communications strategy.

As one of the highest-ranking Asian Americans in the Obama Administration, Lu was also the Co-Chair of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Prior to his service in the White House, Lu worked for then-Senator Obama, first as the Legislative Director, and then as the Acting Chief of Staff. After the 2008 Presidential election, Lu was the Executive Director of the Presidential transition planning efforts. Lu's government experience includes eight years working for Rep. Henry Waxman as the Deputy Chief Counsel of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and serving as a law clerk for Judge Robert E. Cowen on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. He began his legal career as a litigation attorney at Sidley Austin in Washington, D.C.

In addition to his government service, Lu has been a fellow at the Georgetown University McCourt School of Public Policy, the University of Chicago Institute of Politics, and the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress. He is also the co-editor of the book, Triumphs and Tragedies of the Modern Congress.

Lu is a magna cum laude graduate of Princeton University and cum laude graduate of Harvard Law School, and the recipient of an honorary doctorate degree from MacMurray College. 


Inequality, Sustainability, and Business
In this workshop, participants will explore the relationship between business, sustainability, and inequality and examine both historical and current approaches used to address these issues. They will learn how embedded, not bolted-on, sustainable business practices are required to achieve economic and social equity.

Dr Judith WhiteDr. Judith White
 is an associate professor at Saint Mary’s College of California. She is a scholar and teacher of business ethics and society.


Dr Ken WorthyDr. Ken Worthy is an independent scholar and research associate at the University of California, Santa Cruz, Department of Environmental Studies. He is also a lecturer at Saint Mary’s College of California, UC Berkeley, and New York University.




Breaking the Code of Gender Implicit Bias
In this workshop, participants will be introduced to a new framework to acknowledge and understand gender differences as competencies. Through stories, video clips, sharing personal experiences and the Devil’s advocate exercise, they will also learn how to develop effective communication skills to work effectively with the differences while being authentic to their own individual competencies.  

Bonita BanducciBonita Banducci is the President of Banducci Consulting. Her original research on a Silicon Valley Fortune 500 company, “What is the Contribution Women Make that Could be the Strategic Advantage in the Global Marketplace?” launched her Gender Competence® work. She teaches Gender Competence in a unique course, with students from around the world, Gender and Engineering, for Santa Clara University’s School of Engineering Graduate Program Engineering and Society Core Curriculum. She has consulted and given workshops for corporate houses, government, universities and NGO’s.

Aligning Head, Heart and Hands in Business and Society
This workshop will focus on the individual’s role in bringing mindful approaches to align head, hearts and hands, to identify/create actionable solutions. and conceptualize business and society as voluntary social systems.  Participants will read and reflect on short articles and participate in exercises to identify solutions that they can implement. 

Dr. Jyoti Bachani
  Jyoti Bachaniis Chevron Associate professor of Strategy and Innovation at Saint Mary’s College of California.  Her scholarly interests include strategic change in technology, innovation, non-profits, and emerging economies. In 2011, she spent 9 months in India as a Fulbright senior research scholar.


Investments and Inequality
This workshop will led by members of the student Investment Group at Saint Mary’s.  Participants will learn why the phrase “you need money to make money” applies to investments and why those with more money are able to grow their wealth at a faster rate than others. Discussions will include the following topics: the disparity in wealth over the last 25-50 years, the types of investments available & the amount of money / type of investor allowed in each investment category, tax rules at each tax bracket and how it affects an investment strategy.

simon tryznaSimon Tryzna is President of Saint Mary's College School of Economics and Business Administration Dean's Undergraduate Advisory Board and Founder & President of the Saint Mary's College Student Investment Group. 



Religion & Business!!!?? Mobilizing Interfaith Leadership to Tackle the Religious Inequality Elephant in the Room
Too often, the religious identities of our employees, customers, suppliers, and others associated with our businesses are ignored as irrelevant to business activities.  Can acknowledging and addressing religious and non-faith diversity improve business organizations?  We think so.  And, guess what?  The law of diversity accommodations requires it.  

In this workshop we will explore together how interfaith leadership can lead to management practices that not only create bonds of trust that lead to more cohesive organizational cultures, but can be instrumental to social stability by  building bridges across boundaries of religious and non-faith differences in the larger society, as well.

Barbara McGrawDr. Barbara A. McGraw, J.D., Ph.D. is a Professor of Social Ethics, Law, and Public Life  and the Director of the Center for Engaged Religious Pluralism at Saint Mary's College of California. She serves on the American Academy of Religion's standing committee for the Public Understanding of Religion. Dr. McGraw also is a member of the Bar of the United States Supreme Court and an Affiliate of The Pluralism Project at Harvard University and is an activist for prison inmates' religious rights.



Dr. Tomas GomezDr. J. Tomas Gomez-Arias is a Professor of Marketing and Global Business, Program Director, M.S. in Business Analytics and Chair, Department of Marketing at Saint Mary’s College of California. 



Dr. Jim HawleyDr. Jim Hawley is a Professor of Management and a Senior Research fellow at the Elfenworks Center for Responsible Business at Saint Mary’s College of California. 



Sponsor: Elfenworks Center for Responsible Business

The vision of the Elfenworks Center for Responsible Business is to become a renowned leader for promoting business education and practice that advance the common good.

Our goals are to be: 

  • A thought leader and educational model in business solutions to problems of corporate governance, environmental degradation and social issues (such as poverty and inequality) as they impact business practices and policies. 
  • A community partner in events and practice that promotes responsible business performance.
  • An educational incubator for student engagement that inspires social responsibility.

Our mission:

To foster and support the work Saint Mary's faculty in the area of responsible business and provide opportunities for faculty, students and community partners to collaborate on these issues.


Questions about the event? Contact Dr. Saroja Subrahmanyan

Event Banner