Justice, Fairness, Inclusion, and Performance.

The Academy’s Grand Challenge of Connecting Individuals to Meaningful Work indicates that an individual’s work requires several elements to be meaningful and should provide people with a sense of fulfillment while simultaneously improving their overall welfare. However, not everyone has an equal opportunity to achieve their notion of meaningful work. Part of the Academy’s goal for its 2022 Fall Meeting was to highlight elements of meaningful work and dig into how and why it is not equitably attainable.

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Many of the programming sessions touched on equity and meaningful work from a variety of perspectives and to differing degrees. In particular, two sessions organized by Carnegie Mellon University addressed the factors contributing to the lack of meaningful work and how quality job growth and community investment can correct these gaps or issues in our society’s workforce.

One of the two sessions was a presentation by Tom Kochan, the Post-Tenure George Maverick Bunker Professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management, on “Upsurge in Work Voice: Implications for Government Leaders.” He explained that economic inequality is growing across the workforce, motivating workers to speak up, consider unionization, and explore other methods of securing more stable wages, benefits, diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility (DEIA), and respect. This shift in priorities is particularly evident in minority and younger workers. Work stoppages are occurring more often and in new forms. He suggested that government at all levels might need to engage with business leaders while working to address the political impasse over implementing modern labor standards. All stakeholders should collaborate to find a consensus on modern labor standards, provide jobs that allow workers to feel empowered and valued, and ultimately help individuals find meaningful work.

The second session featured a conversation between Mayor William Peduto of Pittsburgh, PA, and Mayor Andy Berke of Chattanooga, TN. The mayors discussed how encouraging equitable economic development and community investment can provide meaningful work and deter hate and violence. They believe the whole community benefits from these efforts and that they should start at local, regional, and state governments, as the federal government does not have the same capabilities nor understanding as the people working in the communities.  

Meaningful work is essential to a thriving society, but it is often not equally achievable for various reasons. However, these fall meeting sessions emphasized that equitable community investment and job opportunities are critical to providing meaningful work.  With coordination between levels of government and their local practitioners, meaningful work is attainable and, when sought equitably, can help communities prosper.

This is the second part of a five-part series on meaningful work. Read about the Academy’s approach to meaningful work and creating meaningful work through inclusive workplaces.

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