Williams Named Fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center

Williams Named Fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center

September 30, 2019

Apryl Williams, assistant professor of sociology at Susquehanna, has been honored with separate recognitions that move forward her research into gender- and race-based discrimination.

She is currently serving as a fellow with Harvard University’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society.

As a fellow, Williams, who is taking leave of her position at Susquehanna, will pursue her research that examines racial bias in online dating, questions user agency when using match-making algorithms and explores the experiences of people of color as they navigate online dating platforms.

“There is data that suggests that black women and Asian men get the least amount of attention on online dating sites and I thought that was very interesting,” Williams said.

“I hope that my research informs policy and application design,” she said. “And that the companies that build these algorithms pay close attention to whether they are applying racial bias in their work.”

The Berkman Klein Center’s mission is to explore and understand cyberspace; to study its development, dynamics, norms, and standards; and to assess the need or lack thereof for laws and sanctions.

Award Advances Research on Discrimination in Academia

Williams was also recently awarded the Natalie Allon Research Award by the Sociologists for Women In Society.

Williams received the award along with research collaborator and coauthor Shantel Gabrieal Buggs, assistant professor of sociology and African American studies at Florida State University.

Their research aims to assess how transgender (those whose gender identity does not match the gender they were assigned at birth), cisgender (those whose gender identity matches the gender that they were assigned at birth) and nonbinary (a gender identity other than male or female) women of color navigate discrimination within the academic job market. They also hope to identify strategies and techniques to handle these obstacles, and mechanisms of support and knowledge-sharing about how to best succeed amidst (or anticipate) discrimination within academic spaces.

“This research project was born through my experience on the job market with my coauthor,” Williams said. “We both had interviews at several of the same institutions and we actually were mistaken for each other at these job interviews. Because of that, we decided this is an opportunity to think about these microaggressions that women of color may experience on the job market.”

The purpose of the SWS Natalie Allon Fund is to advance sociological understanding and redress of employment discrimination based on sex, gender, gender identity, sexual identity or sexual orientation.

Williams joined the faculty at Susquehanna in 2017. She earned her PhD in sociology from Texas A&M University in 2017 with a designated focus in race, media and culture. Her research follows two broad streams of inquiry: cultural studies of race, gender and community in digital spaces, and mobile phone and digital technology use in developing countries.

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