Elizabeth Hirsh

Canada Research Chair in Social Inequality and Law

Tier 2 - 2017-11-01
Renewed: 2016-05-01
The University of British Columbia
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council


Coming to Canada From

Cornell University, USA

Research involves

Evaluating the effectiveness of anti-discrimination laws and workplace policies for correcting gender, race and ethnic inequality at work.

Research relevance

This research will help identify employment policies and practices that minimize discrimination and demonstrate how the law can be used for social change.

Do Anti-discrimination Laws Provide Equal Opportunity?

Most advanced industrialized nations have laws prohibiting employers from discriminating against workers on the basis of sex, race and ethnicity. But outlawing a practice doesn’t necessarily eliminate it. Discrimination against women and racial minorities persists and thousands of workers file formal legal claims of sex and race bias every year.

Dr. Elizabeth Hirsh, Canada Research Chair in Social Inequality and Law, is examining the extent to which laws against discrimination and legal claims minimize sex and race discrimination in the workplace. She asks how people identify discrimination on the job, what leads them to file legal claims and whether formal claims reduce employment discrimination among employers that are targeted.

Hirsh’s research is part of a larger research agenda to understand if and how the law affects social inequality. She has previously demonstrated that legal claims in the United States are most effective at reducing inequality when accompanied by sustained political and economic pressure. Hirsh will be extending her work to anti-discrimination laws in Canada and undertaking a comparative analysis of the United States and Canada.

The guarantee of equal opportunity is a defining characteristic of modern democracies and Hirsh’s work focuses on how this ideal plays out in practice. Her research will identify policies that promote equality of opportunity and demonstrate how the law can most effectively be used for social change.