Berkeley Culture Conference to focus on addressing racism and anticipating the future of work

Chantrelle Nielsen, Senior Director of Workplace Intelligence at Microsoft
Chantrelle Nielsen, Senior Director of Workplace Intelligence at Microsoft, presents at the 2020 Berkeley Culture Conference. Microsoft’s Irada Sadykhova, senior director of organization development, is one of this year’s presenters. (Photo: Brittany Hosea-Small)

Addressing systemic racism and building organizational culture for the changing nature of work will be the focus at the third annual Berkeley Culture Conference, which runs from Jan 11-14.

The conference, which will be held virtually over four half-days, brings together top scholars and corporate executives to discuss the latest organizational culture research, thought leadership, and cutting-edge strategies. For the first time this year, members of the Berkeley Haas community are invited to attend, with advance registration required.

“We have an incredible lineup and we believe everyone will learn a great deal about these dynamic and challenging issues,” said Prof. Jennifer Chatman, who, along with Assoc. Prof. Sameer Srivastava, co-founded the conference and the Berkeley Culture Initiative to build a community of researchers and practitioners to advance the field.

“Despite the pandemic and the need to shift to a virtual format, we have seen the community of scholars and organizational leaders coming to the conference grow in both size and breadth,” said Srivastava.

The conference is divided into two parts. The academic conference on Monday and Tuesday is geared toward scholars, presenting the latest organizational culture research from the fields of sociology, social psychology, economics, and strategy. Among the speakers are Edgar Schein of MIT, considered the founder of organizational culture research, and Harvard Business School Prof. Rosabeth Moss Kanter, one of the pioneering researchers on issues of gender and diversity in organizations. Other presenters hail from some of the world’s top universities; in addition to Srivastava and Chatman from the Haas faculty, Asst. Prof. Douglas Guilbeault will present his new work.

The corporate conference, titled “Building a Resilient and Adaptable Culture During Uncertain Times,” will follow on Wednesday and Thursday. The first day will center on how organizations are addressing systemic racism and fostering inclusion, and will open with a fireside chat with David Thomas, the president of Morehouse College. “Dr. Thomas is not only a stand-out leader in education but is also an organizational scholar who has written some of the most insightful papers on racial dynamics in organizations,” Chatman said. “We are delighted that he will be joining us.”

The theme for Thursday is building organizational culture for the changing nature of work. “Although there are several plausible scenarios about how organizations will change in a post-pandemic world, there is little doubt that culture will not only remain central but may even become more critical for organizational success,” noted Srivastava. Speakers over the two days include executives from Nike, Pixar, Google, Microsoft, 3M, Charles Schwab and more.

Warriors Coach Steve Kerr on stage at the Berkeley Haas Culture Conference 2020
Chatman and Srivastava interview Warriors Coach Steve Kerr at the 2020 Berkeley Culture Conference. (Photo: Brittany Hosea-Small)

The conference is the flagship event for Chatman and Srivastava’s Berkeley Culture Initiative, which partners with organizations and academics from a wide variety of industries and disciplines. The goal is to foster a community of researchers and organizational leaders who can exchange ideas about how culture operates in organizations, how new data sources and computational methods can uncover previously obscured facets of culture, and what practices create the kinds of cultures in which organizations can thrive.