Employment and Jobs

American Values and the Competitive Advantage of Employee Ownership

July 6, 2023  • Economic Opportunities Program & Institute for the Study of Employee Ownership and Profit Sharing at Rutgers University

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Americans have long-held values around dignity, hard work, and the promise of the American dream. These values, however, are often divorced from our discourse and policies around the health and competitiveness of our businesses and our economy. And too often, it is believed that we must sacrifice the well-being of our workers in favor of growth and a higher GDP. Employee ownership, which is good for businesses, workers, and our economy, is one strategy for helping us break this false choice and narrative.

In this conversation, speakers discuss how employee ownership can help us create a strong, competitive economy and live up to the values we hold about work and opportunity. It features a panel discussion with Erik Olsen (Department Chair of Economics, University of Missouri-Kansas City), Paige Ouimet (Professor of Finance, University of North Carolina), Margot Brandenburg (Senior Program Officer, The Ford Foundation), Julius Krein (Editor, American Affairs), Jerome Brown (Senior Vice President and Director of Quality, HDR) and moderator Maureen Conway (Vice President, The Aspen Institute; Executive Director, Economic Opportunities Program). 

This discussion was held on June 15, 2023, as part of the Employee Ownership Ideas Forum, co-hosted by the Aspen Institute Economic Opportunities Program and the Institute for the Study of Employee Ownership and Profit Sharing at Rutgers University. This two-day convening brought together leading policymakers, practitioners, experts, and the media for a robust discussion on how we can grow employee ownership for the shared benefit of American workers and businesses. Learn more: https://www.aspeninstitute.org/events/employee-ownership-ideas-forum/


Video: Hear @FordFoundation’s Margot Brandenburg, @Jerome Brown77, @JuliusKrein, Erik Olsen @UMKC, @PaigeOuimet, and @conway_maureen discuss American values and the competitive advantage of #EmployeeOwnership.



Conversations from the Employee Ownership Ideas Forum




photo of Erik OlsenErik Olsen

Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Economics, University of Missouri Kansas City

Erik K. Olsen Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Economics and Chair of the Department of Economics at the University of Missouri Kansas City and Senior Fellow at the Institute for Employee Ownership and Profit Sharing at Rutgers University. He has published widely and made contributions in several fields of economics. Currently he is engaged in research on the effect of broad-based or cooperative employee ownership and participatory management on employee behavior, firm structure, performance, and survival. Other active areas of research include the creation and growth dynamics of employee owned and operated firms. Professor Olsen holds a doctorate from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and teaches microeconomics, mathematical economics, and political economy at University of Missouri Kansas City.


photo of Paige OuimetPaige Ouimet

Professor of Finance, Kenan-Flagler Business School, University of North Carolina;
Associate Dean of the PhD Program and the Research Director
, The Kenan Institute.

Paige is a professor of finance at the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina.  She is also the Associate Dean of the PhD Program and the Research Director of the Kenan Institute. Her research agenda is concentrated at the juncture of finance and labor economics. She is interested in how decisions studied in finance impact employee stakeholders – specifically how those effects are reflected in firm performance and, hence, corporate finance decisions. Her work has been published in the American Economic Review, Journal of Finance, Review of Financial Studies and Journal of Financial Economics. She received her PhD and MBA from the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan and her BA from Dartmouth College.


Margot Brandenburg

Senior Program Officer, The Ford Foundation

Margot Brandenburg is a senior program officer on the Ford Foundation’s Mission Investments team, focused on building and strengthening the infrastructure of the impact investment market—with an eye to shaping the broader capital markets. She has spent two decades working at the intersection of philanthropy, capital markets, and social and environmental justice. Prior to joining Ford, Margot served as founder and CEO of MyStrongHome, a benefit corporation delivering resilience finance services to homeowners across the Southeast and Gulf Coast of the US. Before that, she helped design and lead the impact investing initiative at the Rockefeller Foundation. She co-authored the book The Power of Impact Investing with former RF president Judith Rodin. While at Rockefeller, she also focused on job creation and issues of economic security for low-wage workers.

Margot began her career in international microfinance and has worked with several community development finance institutions in the US. She serves on the boards of the Workers Lab, Brooklyn Cooperative Credit Union, and the Woodcock Foundation, and as an adviser to the National Domestic Workers Alliance as well as the National Energy Improvement Fund. She received a master’s in public affairs from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University and holds an undergraduate degree from Stanford University.


Julius Krein

Editor, American Affairs

Julius is the founder and editor of American Affairs, a quarterly policy journal. Previously, he was an investment analyst at multiple alternative asset managers. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, and other publications.


photo of Jerome Brown
Jerome Brown

Senior Vice President and Quality Office Director for HDR.

Residing in the DC Metro area, Jerome interacts with company leadership and employees globally, working to ensure that HDR’s risk position is being effectively managed. In addition to being HDR’s Quality Office Director, Jerome serves on the HDR Foundation’s Board of Directors. The HDR Foundation is centered on helping the communities HDR calls home and focuses on Education, Healthy Communities, and Environmental Stewardship. As the former chair of the HDR San Diego Total Service Organization (TSO) committee, Jerome was responsible for listening to the customer, continuously improving business and recognizing team member efforts. He was instrumental in community outreach and bringing HDR into various community service activities. Before HDR, he worked in an R&D division of Daimler/Benz in San Diego. It was there he played an active role on a cutting-edge team in developing fuel-cell-powered vehicles. While there, he also engaged in design consulting at SpaceDev, a small commercial satellite development company. 

Jerome is an advisory board member for the Stevens Institute of Technology Schaefer School of Engineering, is a national corporate council member for National Forum for Black Public Administrators (NFBPA), and sits on the strategic planning committee for the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO). He has previously served on the California Polytechnic State University’s Dean’s Advisory Council and the University of California San Diego Industry Advisory Board for Mathematics Engineering Science Achievement (MESA). In addition, he has held several regional and national leadership positions in the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) Professionals. He is a two-time recipient of the NSBE National Leadership Award, NSBE Professional National Member of the Year, NSBE Professional Board Member of the Year and the San Diego Urban League Young Professional of the Year. A native of Northern California’s Central Valley, Jerome earned his Bachelor of Engineering in mechanical engineering with a concentration in manufacturing technologies at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey. While a student, he served as the chapter president of the engineering honor society Tau Beta Pi. 


Photo of Maureen Conway
Maureen Conway (Moderator)

Vice President, The Aspen Institute;
Executive Director, Economic Opportunities Program

Maureen Conway serves as vice president at the Aspen Institute and as executive director of the Institute’s Economic Opportunities Program (EOP). EOP works to expand individuals’ opportunities to connect to quality work, start businesses, and build economic stability that provides the freedom to pursue opportunity. Link to Maureen’s full biography