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5 most popular innovation stories in Houston this week

Trending this week on InnovationMap is news about a new electric vehicle initiative from the mayor's office, three Houston innovators to know, and more. Photo by PeopleImages

Editor's note: If you zoned out of Houston innovation news this week — perhaps distracted by baseball post-season games — we've got you covered. Some of the highlights include a new electric vehicle initiative from the mayor's office, updates from The Ion, and the Houstonians with the deepest pockets.

3 Houston innovators to know this week

Samantha Lewis, Tilman Fertitta, and Tiffany Masterson are this week's innovators to know in Houston. Courtesy images

Houston entrepreneurs never cease to impress, leaving a mark on the city for their business minds, creativity, and overall gumption. This week's three innovators to know are no exception.

From a startup venture capitalist and Houston's most recognizable billionaire to a local mom that created — and now sold — a skincare line with a cult following, these are this week's innovative Houstonians to keep an eye on. Continue reading.

Station Houston CEO to lead operations at The Ion

The Rice Management Company has created a new operations organization for The Ion and has selected Gabriella Rowe to lead it. Courtesy of Rice University

A Houston innovation leader is switching sides of the table to support on a highly anticipated entrepreneurial hub.

Rice Management Company has created an operating organization for The Ion and has named Gabriella Rowe as the executive director. Rowe has served as CEO of Station Houston since August 2018. The Ion, which broke ground on the site of the Midtown Sears building in July, is expected to deliver early 2021. Continue reading.

Houston billionaires named to Forbes' list of richest Americans for 2019

Pipeline mogul and Memorial Park benefactor Richard Kinder (pictured with his wife, Nancy) leads the Houston billionaires. Photo by Michelle Watson/Catchlight Group

Who's the richest person in Texas? That title once again goes to Walmart heiress Alice Walton, of Fort Worth, according to the newly released Forbes 400 ranking. But seven very wealthy Houstonians also appear on the list of the 400 richest people in the country right now.

The top Houstonian on the list is Houston pipeline mogul Richard Kinder, who is tied with another Walmart heiress, Ann Walton Kroenke, for sixth place in Texas and No. 67 nationally. Forbes estimates they're each worth $7.5 billion. Continue reading.

Mayor announces major effort to reduce emissions on Houston's roadways

Through increasing awareness, affordability, and accessibility, the city of Houston hopes to grow the number of electric vehicles on Houston roads by 2030. Courtesy of EVolve Houston

The city of Houston has taken a major step toward reducing carbon emissions caused by its estimated 1.3 million vehicles that drive the city's streets daily.

Mayor Sylvester Turner announced a new partnership between the government, local businesses, and academic leaders that has created EVolve Houston. The coalition is aimed at boosting electric vehicle sales to 30 percent of new car sales in Houston by 2030. Continue reading.

A Houston entrepreneur is thinking out of the box with smart lockers for food and personal items

Dommonic Nelson wants to make sure everyone's lunches are safe. Photo via cleverboxcompany.com

Someone kept taking Dommonic Nelson's lunch. A Texas Southern University student living at home and commuting from Greenspoint, Nelson only had a few minutes to scarf down his lunches between studying Maritime Transportation. But regularly, he'd reach into the community refrigerator on campus, only to find, well, nothing.

One night, Nelson was in the shower, wondering why his lunch had been taken again, and the long journey to Clever Box Co. began. He barged into his grandfather's room — it was 2:40 in the morning — and told him he had an idea for a series of high-tech boxes designed for storing various things. The boxes could keep personal items (the Stash Box) and packages (the Happy Box) in large companies and coworking spaces, and for people to quickly pick up their food from restaurants without having to wait in line (the Yummy Box). If Nelson couldn't get his lunches back, he was going to make an entire business on making sure no one got stolen from again. Continue reading.

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Building Houston

 
 

How we describe inequality is significant because it impacts our view of who causes it and how society should address it. Photo via Getty Images

Look closely at any news article about inequality and you will quickly notice that there is more than one way to describe what is happening.

For example:

“In 2022, men earned $1.18 for every dollar women earned.”

“In 2022, women earned 82 cents for every dollar men earned.”

“In 2022, the gender wage gap was 18 cents per dollar.”

When pointing out differences in access to resources and opportunities among groups of people, we tend to use three types of language:

  1. Advantaged — Describes an issue in terms of advantages the more dominant group enjoys.
  2. Disadvantaged — Describes an issue in terms of disadvantages the less dominant group experiences.
  3. Neutrality — Stays general enough to avoid direct comparisons between groups of people.

The difference between these three lenses, referred to as “frames” in academic literature, may be subtle. We may miss it completely when skimming a news article or listening to a friend share an opinion. But frames are more significant than we may realize.

“Frames of inequality matter because they shape our view of what is wrong and what should be fixed,” says Rice Business Professor Sora Jun.

Jun led a research team that conducted multiple studies to understand which of the three frames people typically use to describe social and economic inequality. In total, they analyzed more than 19,000 mainstream media articles and surveyed more than 600 U.S.-based participants.

In Chronic frames of social inequality: How mainstream media frame race, gender, and wealth inequality, the team published two major findings.

First, people tend to describe gender and racial inequality using the language of disadvantage. For example, “The data showed that officers pulled over Black drivers at a rate far out of proportion to their share of the driving-age population.”

Jun’s team encountered the same rhetorical tendency with gender inequality. In most cases, people describe instances of gender inequality (e.g., the gender pay gap) in terms of a disadvantage for women. We are far more likely to use the statement “Women earned 82 cents for every dollar men earned” than “Men earned $1.18 cents for every dollar women earned.”

"We expected that people would use the disadvantage framework to describe racial and gender inequalities, and it turned out to be true,” says Jun. “We think that the reason for this stems from how legitimate we perceive different hierarchies to be.” Because demographic categories like gender and race are unrelated to talent or effort, most people find it unfair that resources are distributed unevenly along these lines.

On the other hand, Jun expected people to describe wealth inequality in terms of advantage rather than disadvantage. The public typically considers this form of inequality to be more fair than racial or gender inequality. “In the U.S., there is still a widespread belief in economic mobility — that if you work hard enough, you can change the socioeconomic group you are in,” she says.

But in their second major finding, she and fellow researchers discovered that the most common frame used to describe wealth inequality was no frame at all. We find this neutrality in statements like “Disparities in education, health care and social services remain stark.”

Jun is not sure why people take a neutral approach more frequently when describing wealth inequality (speaking specifically of economic classes outside of gender and race). She suspects it has something to do with the fact that we view wealth as a fluid and continuous spectrum.

The merits of the three frames are up for debate. Using the frame of disadvantage might seem to portray issues more sympathetically, but some scholars point to potential downsides. The language of disadvantage installs the dominant group as the measuring stick for everyone else. It may also put the onus of change on the disadvantaged group while making the problem seem less relevant to the dominant group.

“When we speak about the gender gap in terms of disadvantage, and helping women earn more compared to men, we automatically assume that men are making the correct amount,” says Jun. “But maybe we should be looking at both sides of the equation.”

On the other hand, Jun cautions against using a one-size-fits-all approach to describing inequality. “We have to be careful not to jump to an easy conclusion, because the causes of inequality are so vast,” she says.

For example, men tend to interrupt conversations in team meetings at higher rates than women. “Should we frame this behavior in terms of advantage or disadvantage, which naturally leads us to prompt men to interrupt less and women to interrupt more?” asks Jun. “We really don’t know until we understand the ideal number of interruptions and why this deviation is happening. Ultimately, how we talk about inequality depends on what we want to accomplish. I hope that through this research, people will think more carefully about how they describe inequality so that they capture the full story before they act.”

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This article originally ran on Rice Business Wisdom and was based on research fromSora Jun, Rosalind M. Chow, A. Maurits van der Veen and Erik Bleich.

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