Institute for Economic and Racial Equity receives $1 million gift to establish Racial Justice x Tech Policy initiative

The two-year provisional gift from the Kapor Center will build student and faculty capacity and establish a research prize on racial bias in tech

January 18, 2022

The Kapor Center, an Oakland, CA-based foundation co-chaired by Heller alumna Freada Kapor Klein, PhD’84, gifted $1 million to the Institute for Economic and Racial Equity (IERE) to establish a multifaceted Racial Justice x Tech Policy (RJxTP) initiative at the Heller School. Over the next two years, this gift will fund a combination of innovative strategies and programs designed to combat systemic racial bias in technology through education, research and policy.

“This initiative will address critical issues of racism and bias in technology and build critical knowledge and capacity in this rapidly-growing policy field,” says IERE Director Maria Madison, who also serves as Heller’s associate dean for equity, inclusion and diversity. “We are eager for the opportunity to deliver programming that will empower our faculty, students and young scholars of color to challenge racial injustices in tech and develop actionable policy solutions for a more equitable future.”

With this gift, Madison and her team will grow a pipeline of scholars in this field, create innovative educational programming, launch an incubator lab and establish a Racial Bias Research Prize, among other activities. These efforts seek to build awareness and capacity among a range of stakeholder groups to create more equitable technology policy to protect communities of color from harms of technology, for example through biased algorithms or inequitable data privacy policies. 

“The Heller School's tradition of promoting policies dedicated to advancing social justice makes it an ideal home for this gift,” says University Professor Anita Hill. “The new racial bias research prize allows Brandeis students and faculty who are doing exciting scholarship, research and entrepreneurship to engage with peers from around the country on ideas that disrupt inequities and facilitate structural change.”

Through the Kapor Center, Kapor Klein and her husband, Mitch Kapor, support initiatives to make entrepreneurship and the tech ecosystem more diverse, inclusive and impactful. Kapor Klein is an entrepreneur, activist and pioneer in the field of organizational culture and diversity with deep roots in the tech industry.

Kapor Klein, who calls herself “a proud Heller alumna,” says, “By equipping Heller students to bring a racial justice lens to tech policy work and to establish Heller as the preeminent institution conducting and amplifying activist research on bias in tech is a humbling, joyful, and full circle moment of paying it forward.

“From completing my doctoral dissertation focused on sexual harassment in 1984 to then making Lotus the most progressive employer in the U.S to also working directly with Anita Hill, (now a Heller professor) on The Hollywood Commission, shows how this gift continues the evolution of our work.”

The RJxTP activities supported by the Kapor Center’s gift will be cross-cutting, allowing for broad participation both within and outside the university community, as well as in-depth learning opportunities for students seeking specialized training in racial justice and tech policy. 

“IERE’s work with the Kapor Center will have a profound effect on the Heller School and create additional scholars in this rapidly-growing field,” says Dean David Weil. “I am so grateful that the Kapor Center shares our commitment to advancing racial equity and developing academic programming that will make the technology ecosystem more diverse and inclusive.”

For more detailed information and updates about the RJxTP initiative, visit the IERE website or sign up for the IERE mailing list