Joan C.

Legal scholar

Joan writes about: Culture, Gender, Work

Described as having “something approaching rock star status” in her field by The New York Times Magazine, Joan C. Williams has played a central role in reshaping the conversation about work, gender, and class over the past quarter century. Williams is a Distinguished Professor of Law, Hastings Foundation Chair, and Founding Director of the Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law. She is one of the 10 most cited scholars in her field and is the author or coauthor of 11 books and over 100 academic articles.

Williams’ pathbreaking work helped create the field of work-family studies and modern workplace flexibility policies. She pioneered the legal area of Family Responsibilities Discrimination and helped crystallize the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s shifts in policy including the 2007 Enforcement Guidance: Unlawful Disparate Treatment of Workers with Caregiving Responsibilities and the 2015 Enforcement Guidance: Pregnancy Discrimination and Related Issues. Williams cocreated the Project for Attorney Retention, which created and disseminated the model part-time policy now implemented at law firms across the country.

Williams’ work on social class has influenced scholars, policymakers, and the press. It includes her election-night essay “What So Many People Don’t Get about the US Working Class,” published online in Harvard Business Review, which has been read over 3.7 million times and is now the most read article in HBR’s 90-plus year history, and her book White Working Class: Overcoming Class Cluelessness in America.

She is known for leading original research as well as disseminating social psychology research on gender and racial bias in professionals workplace, most notably in her 2014 book What Works for Women at Work (cowritten with her daughter Rachel Dempsey). She has also cowritten a series of influential reports on racial and gender bias in STEM, engineering, the legal profession, and architecture. She is widely known for “bias interrupters,” an evidence-based metrics-driven approach to eradicating implicit bias introduced in the Harvard Business Review in 2014. You can find open-sourced bias interrupters toolkits at

The culture wars that drive American politics reflect class conflict stemming from class cluelessness by the professional-managerial elite.


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