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Bentley President E. LaBrent Chrite sits with panelists Dan Farley MBA ’95, Jane Steinmetz and Corey E. Thomas on stage at Bentley Gallup AI event
(left to right) Panelists Dan Farley MBA ’95, executive vice president and CIO of the Investment Solutions Group at State Street Global Advisors; Jane Steinmetz, Boston office managing principal at EY; and Corey E. Thomas, chairman and CEO at Rapid7 with Bentley President E. LaBrent Chrite. Photo credit: Maddie Schroeder.

What does good business look like in the age of artificial intelligence (AI)? This was among the questions — based on findings from the Business in Society report, Bentley’s second-annual study in partnership with Gallup, which surveyed more than 5,000 people across America — explored by top executives from EY, State Street Global Advisors and Rapid7 during an event held at WBUR CitySpace in Boston. Moderated by Bentley President E. LaBrent Chrite, panel members explored where they think businesses are having a positive impact and where they’re falling short when it comes to topics like AI, employee well-being and taking a public stance on controversial issues. Bentley partnered with the Massachusetts Business Roundtable and the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce to host the event. 

“At Bentley, we are proud to recognize the importance of the private sector and to understand and appreciate the essential role that democratic, market-based capitalism can have in our society,” Chrite said in opening remarks. “We believe at its best, it is an enabling, generative, powerful force; and we consider it a great privilege to be an institution that is uniquely and powerfully dedicated to developing the next generation of corporate leaders.” 

Speaking about the history of capitalism, Gallup CEO Jon Clifton said, “Nobody ever asked the American people what they thought the purpose of business is — until Bentley University said, ‘we’re going to change that.’” We’re answering some of today’s most important questions.” 

Clifton highlighted survey results, including a boost in overall confidence about business. “Over the past two years we’ve seen a marked improvement in terms of how Americans feel about businesses’ impact on their lives.”

Read the survey highlights

The Bentley-Gallup Business in Society study reports that 63% percent of Americans believe business is having a positive impact on society — that’s up from 55% in 2022. The research also suggests that Americans think businesses have untapped potential: Eighty-eight percent believe businesses have a “great deal” or “some” power to positively impact people’s lives, but only 58% believe that’s happening.  

Chrite led a candid discussion that tackled this and other findings as they relate to the current marketplace. Panelists included Dan Farley MBA ’95, executive vice president and CIO of the Investment Solutions Group at State Street Global Advisors; Jane Steinmetz, Boston office managing principal at EY; and Corey E. Thomas, chairman and CEO at Rapid7.


The Bentley-Gallup survey found a downturn, from 48% in 2022 to 41% this year, when it comes to consumers wanting businesses to take a public stance on controversial events, though climate change and mental health are more accepted topics than politics and religion. A caveat to this finding is that young people aged 18-29 — the future customer base and workforce — are more likely to want companies to speak out, particulalry when it comes to climate change. Panelists agreed that while organizations can implement a broad strategy for sharing their position on societal issues, there’s not a one-size-fits-all answer. 

“The situation defines the answer to a certain extent,” Farley said about when companies should speak out. “As a company, identify which [issues] you think are your core things that you’re holding as part of your beliefs.” 

Another guiding factor, he added, is a company’s understanding of a situation. Thomas agreed, emphasizing a focus on relevancy and accountability throughout the process.  

“I personally don’t think business should take a stand on every single issue,” Thomas said. “I apply a relevancy test: Do we have relevancy and the right to take a position? There’s always going to be judgment … and we need to be accountable for that.”  

Steinmetz sees value in broad company policies to identify when to lean into corporate activism but takes a situational approach, particularly with events — like the recent Hamas attack on Israel — that “tip the scale.” She concurs with Thomas’ perspective on accountability. 

“If you feel like you need to speak out on an issue, you’re going to take some shots because there will be people on either side,” she said. “But on certain topics, saying something has ramifications, and not saying something has ramifications. It’s judgment.”


Although companies are harnessing AI, data shows that there is a great deal of mistrust among Americans in how businesses will use it, with 79% reporting that they don't trust companies to use AI in a responsible way, according to the Bentley-Gallup survey. They also expressed concern over job security: Three in four Americans say AI will negatively affect the U.S. job market, with 75% believing it will decrease the total number of jobs over the next 10 years. There was consensus among panelists on the need for government regulation over AI use. 

“Unleashing the power of AI is going to transform so much of what we do,” Steinmetz said. “We have to figure out how to responsibly use AI to eliminate some of that distress, whether that’s data privacy or implicit biases that might be fed into an AI tool.” 

Regarding job displacement, she believes that government has a role in regulation, particularly when it comes to reskilling workers. Her approach is outcome-based: Instead of attacking the technology, ask what outcomes need to be protected. 

Thomas recommended targeted government regulation regarding securing people’s information and helping the U.S. stay ahead of the curve in technology. “It is not a forgone conclusion that we will maintain our technology leadership position. The key is to be very focused and create national standards and laws in targeted areas but then really focus on workforce development — and not try to legislate the solution by limiting technology and management.” 

Farley also emphasized the necessity, and balancing act, of government oversight of AI. “From the regulatory perspective we need to find that fine line that is protective and avoids ways that people are harmed without potentially squashing innovation.  

“This is a global problem that is going to have geopolitical implications as well,” Farley continued, noting that as a global company, State Street Global Advisors uses AI to embed data checks and quality governance. “Dealing with data privacy rules around the world is onerous. Coming to some level of standardization around this will be helpful.” 

It’s on businesses, Farley said, to identify how to use AI as a tool to increase productivity while ensuring job security. He cited history, including the loss of jobs during the Industrial Revolution, as a factor in Americans’ feelings of mistrust today. Regarding AI, he said, “A lot of time needs to be spent about how do we do it smarter this time so we don’t make the same mistakes we made in the past.” 


The Business in Society survey shows that the focus on employee wellness needs to remain a top priority for employers. When asked which actions employers could take to increase employees’ well-being, 77% of Americans say they would benefit from having the option of a four-day, 40-hour workweek. Also among initatives that top the list: limiting email outside of work hours and offering paid “mental health days.”  

Panelists agreed that a societal shift away from the stigma of mental health issues has encouraged companies to put policies in place, including access to resources like counseling and company-wide time off. Enforcing policies that differentiate work and personal time will take work — and a top-down approach. 

“A lot of that can be done at an organizational level,” Farley said, “but a lot has to be done at a personal level between managers and employees setting expectations.” 

The program concluded with a question from Bentley student Mourad Mokrani ’26, who asked how companies will use AI to become more productive and benefit employees. 

Steinmetz and Farley agreed on the transformative power of AI as an information and idea-generating resource that will allow employees more time for critical thinking and creativity. Thomas added perspective on opening the career pipeline for a more diverse workforce. 

“Historically, AI has been done by a small number of people and teams that were highly expert in data and writing statistical models and algorithms,” Thomas explained. “Having it leverageable by more people has two benefits: one in organizational productivity, but it also allows us to expand our employment base to drive people from different backgrounds and experiences to be impactful and employed faster. That’s one of the things we look forward to.”

Bentley partners with Boston Globe for panel on inaugural Bentley-Gallup report