"This is just so bad."
“It’s just the basic statistics so far but I think the numbers are shocking.”
“One woman said she thought of a lot more instances of harassment over the years after she had submitted it. So, even worse…”
“The percentage of women reporting different types of discrimination is outrageous.”
These are just a few of the texts and emails that started popping up on my phone on Monday after the AEA released tabulations from their first ever survey on the professional climate in Economics. If you haven’t seen the report yet, you can find it here.
Needless to say, this type of climate survey is hugely important in moving the profession forward. However, reading the results can be particularly demoralizing for individuals from underrepresented groups who are just starting their careers. Grad school is challenging enough without looking forward to the prospect of discrimination and harassment in your future career. So today, I’d like to share some learnings from one of the breakout sessions at WEB’s Summit for Diversity in Economics last fall: strategies for self-preservation.
These strategies represent what has worked for everyone from seasoned professionals in our field to individuals just starting grad school. While I’ve written them to be specific to grad school, many can be applied to any level of our profession. Thanks to all of the participants at the summit for helping to generate these (and many more) ideas!
Find out what mental health care options are available at your institution. Many institutions offer coverage for mental health care as part of their student health insurance plan (Berkeley offers 6 free sessions, $15 copay for additional sessions, and free group therapy sessions). Regardless of whether you’re having doubts about your research abilities, struggling with first year courses, or feeling alone as part of a marginalized group within economics, having an outside professional to talk to can be an important resource for navigating tough times. Know that seeking consistent mental health care is not a sign of weakness - it’s a worthwhile investment in your career. If you feel comfortable talking about your mental health care, you’ll probably be surprised by how many of your peers are also seeking some type of professional care on a regular basis.
Recognize that no one is working all the time. We often fall into the trap of thinking that we need to be working all the time because all of our peers are working all the time. I will admit here and now that I do not work all the time! Supporting empirical evidence: this past Saturday, I took a nap at 11AM. Let your peers know when you’re not working so that taking breaks and enjoying hobbies outside of economics isn’t stigmatized in your cohort or department.
Keep nuggets of success handy. Wins can be lean on the ground in grad school, but they do exist! Keep a folder of “nice things” on your computer. Save things like emails from faculty giving positive feedback on a new research idea, thank you notes from students, or even quick notes that you jot down of all the people who expressed interest in your research after a talk. Revisit your folder on days when you’re struggling to remind yourself that your ideas and work are valued.
Build bridges with your peers. Whether it’s others in your cohort or students above or below you in your department, create support networks among people who are sharing this experience with you. There is a lot of institutional knowledge that can be passed down through these networks, and it’s important to learn how others have dealt with the challenges that grad school presents. It’s also helpful to learn that you’re not the only one who is struggling!
Cultivate support networks outside economics. As fantastic are your peers are, a healthy and balanced social diet requires that you spend at least some time around people who are not economists. Do this in whatever way makes sense for you: faith-based networks, club or intramural sports teams, volunteering, and playing in community music groups are all great ways to branch out.
Look at this picture. Even if you were unable to attend the summit last fall, recognize that this can also be the face of economics! If you haven’t already, reach out to join our network of diverse economists. If you’re surrounded by people who look nothing like you, use this picture to know that you belong.
Author: Megan Lang
why diversity in economics?
Over the past few months, with the help of some peers and an excellent podcast (unfortunately in French only!), we had started to question whether fighting for gender equity in economics is really the best use of our time. Spoiler alert: we still think it’s important. But examining this question delivered important insights into how we can be better aware of the privileges that we hold as economists and how our actions may impact the world around us.
After the Summit for Diversity in Economics this fall (for those living in a bubble, check out our post from a few months ago), we took a step back to re-examine things: Is equity of opportunity in our "ivory tower" really the issue that we want to devote so much energy to? For the most part, economics is a profession made up of highly educated individuals who come from privileged backgrounds. [We don’t have a statistic to back this up, but it only takes looking around your department to see how many economists have parents who are highly educated and sometimes even economists themselves.] So is the effort of promoting women in economics simply an effort of moving the already well-off into a slightly more elite position?
Further, what is the cost of such action? We sometimes wonder if we should encourage women and students of color to join a field that can feel isolating, disatisfying and can be so explicitly hostile [Wu (2018)].
On a grander scale, perhaps focusing on our own small bubble obfuscates a larger issue about equity and opportunity in the world. Promoting women in economics may contribute to disparities within women but across the socioeconomic hierarchy. The entry of privileged women en masse into the labor force can be linked to disadvantage and exploitation of women of fewer means.
Women make up two-thirds of the low-wage workforce - and almost half of those workers are women of color. With wages below $10 an hour, they barely scrape by. These women end up doing the care work or nursing work carved out by upper class women as the latter enter the labor force and are competing with men to break the gender glass ceiling. Footnote: Stephanie Land’s 2019 New York Times bestseller "Maid" describes in great detail the hardships of women in low-paying jobs.
While we take these concerns seriously, our answer lies in a simple (and perhaps self-serving) observation about economics: economists have a lot of power on policy and the development of knowledge, and the composition of people who make up the field of economics will impact the content and strength of the research that is produced. [Bayer and Rouse (2016)].
Research by Anusha Chari and Paul Goldsmith-Pinkham shows that women are more likely to be in empirical fields like health, labor, and development economics. The authors write that
These statistics are suggestive of the fact that the presence of women in the field impacts the sub-fields that are emphasized.
Another paper by May, McGarvey, and Whaples (2014) finds that the normative views about the economy vary by gender. Bayer and Rouse (2016) summarize the results of May, McGarvey, and Whaples (2014) as follows:
Finally, Marion Fourcade, Etienne Ollion, and Yann Algan postulate that the fact that economics is dominated by primarily those who are economically privileged, those who are white, and those who are male, may reflect a social stratification that makes our field more closed off to the broader development of knowledge occurring across the social sciences. A laboratory study by Woolley et al. (2010) corroborates this notion, finding that collaborative groups working on problem solving tasks were more successful when they had greater gender diversity.
The bottom line is that the people who make up the field of economics seems to affect the quality and content of the research we produce. And since we like to believe that what we do matters for policy making, knowledge production and generally "making the world a better place," we want to make sure that we have a diverse and representative group of people producing economic research.
Authors: Emily Eisner and Nina Roussille
In the words of one of our participants, we “found the whole [Summit on Diversity in Economics] to be intense and cathartic (though slightly emotionally exhausting).”
The inaugural Summit for Diversity in Economics (September 28-29th, 2018) welcomed 130 graduate students and 30 scholars from over 40 institutions for workshops, presentations and panel discussions by leading economists. “We focused on two main topics: Discussing current shortcomings of the field, and coming up with actionable tools to fix them” says Emily Eisner, organizer and WEB co-president. “Students also had the chance to network and we could overhear some exciting new research ideas coming out of their conversations!”
before the summit
Before the Summit, we conducted a survey of our participants that shed light on how they feel about their departments and what they most wanted to get out of the Summit. In particular, most participants were at least “somewhat dissatisfied” with the level of diversity in their own home institutions and over a quarter were dissatisfied with the culture in their home institutions.
When asked what they most wanted to get out of the summit, a majority stated that they hoped to come away from the Summit with concrete tools they could use in their own departments to improve diversity and inclusion. Others hoped to make connections with other graduate students and economists who were engaged on the issues of diversity and inclusion.
At the summit
In order to meet our objectives of documenting and sharing resources for supporting underrepresented groups and building a stronger inter-departmental community, the Summit was structured around four main activities: keynotes by leading researchers in Economics, panel discussions on the state of the field, workshops where participants shared ideas, experiences and tools with each other, and a healthy serving of informal networking over food and drink. Overall, people were extremely satisfied with Summit in terms of the relevance of the content covered and the opportunity the summit provided to build community. We are most proud of the fact that almost 90% of participants reported feeling more equipped to take steps towards improving diversity in their own department than they did before the summit!
Invited speakers included Martha Olney of UC Berkeley, Shelly Lundberg of UC Santa Barbara, Trevon Logan of The Ohio State University, Lisa Cook of Michigan State University, Ebonya Washington of Yale University, Juan Carlos Suárez Serrato of Duke University, Pascaline Dupas of Stanford University, and newly minted San Francisco Federal Reserves President, Mary Daly. “[Mary Daly’s] motto to bring ourselves into our work, regardless of our gender or our differences, really resonated with our participants,” said Nina Roussille, Co-President. “Many of them shared with us how the summit gave them a sense of empowerment and inspiration to bring back these best practices for fostering a more inclusive environment.” The speakers’ talks set a tone of inclusion and empowerment at the Summit that was reflected in our post-summit survey. Additionally, they helped make people feel comfortable sharing their experiences throughout the Summit.
Areas for Improvement
While we received amazingly positive feedback overall, we are acutely aware of the ways that future Summits need to be improved. Most importantly, greater emphasis needs to be given to People of Color, the LGBTQ+ community, and other groups that face adversity in economics (international graduate students, first generation graduate students, low SES students, etc.). While it was our intention to be inclusive of these groups at the Summit, we should do better. Further, future iterations of the Summit should put even greater emphasis on developing actionable steps that the field and institutions can take to improve diversity.
We couldn’t be more thrilled with what we learned and all the amazing people we met and worked with throughout this whole process. The energy and positivity in the room was breathtaking at times and we are excited to see how this community grows!
If you couldn’t make it to the Summit but want to learn more, check us out on twitter (@CalEconWomen, #WEBDiversitySummit), look at the beautiful pictures of us from the Summit at the Summit Homepage, and feel free to email us with any comments, thoughts or questions (email@example.com).
summit for diversity in economics
We are excited to announce the goals of our Fall 2018 Summit on Diversity in Economics. While many have seen our Summit landing page and maybe a few irregular tweets inviting people to come, we'd like to give a bit more information about our plans and goals with the hope that readers will feel connected with the Summit and able to reach out to us with ideas, concerns, or (we hope!) pledges of support.
Important work is being done by CSWEP, CSMGEP, UWE, UMBC, the LGBTQ working group, and others to address specific aspects of underrepresentation in economics. However, up until now, there have been few, if any, efforts to coordinate interventions across a broad group of graduate programs and that is inclusive of many underrepresented groups. This summit will address the need to gather information and experiences of many groups and the intersections of these groups that face discrimination in the field.
The Summit will host up to 100 graduate students and 50 experienced researchers in economics to build tools and networks that support diversity, inclusion, and equity in the field. In terms of attendance, first priority will be given to students and researchers from backgrounds that are currently underrepresented in economics. However, we also plan to include allies in the field who have and will actively support improvements in diversity moving forward. We hope to host representatives from as many institutions as possible so that we can make our approach and subsequent action as robust and inclusive as possible.
Our Summit for Diversity in Economics will bring together graduate students and researchers from a range of institutions to start building networks of young researchers working to improve diversity in the discipline. The goals of the Summit are to:
The Summit will include
Material Output from the Summit will include
how you can help!
At this point, we have raised enough money and stirred up enough enthusiasm that we are confident this Summit will happen and will be awesome. We've heard from well over 100 graduate students interested in attending the Summit representing nearly 50 different institutions. This is phenomenal, since one of our main goals is to bring together a group of economists and students from as many institutions as possible. However, you may have noticed that graduate students can be a bit liquidity constrained. We've heard from around 40 students that need funding support in order to attend the Summit. Please let us know if you are interested in sponsoring a graduate student to come to the Summit! You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will provide information on how you can support students to attend.
Please also contact us if you have any thoughts or ideas you'd like to share. We would like to make this Summit as inclusive and constructive as possible and your feedback is important! Email any of the other organizers listed below with thoughts or questions.
So far, we have received generous support from
This year, the annual State of the Union hosted by the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality at Stanford University was dedicated to gender inequality. Researchers at the conference discussed the worrying trajectory of women's social and economic advancement over the past fifty years: fast progress until the 1990s and a slowing change thereafter [Marianne Cooper and Shelley J. Corell, on Policy]. The conference covered topics ranging from the gender earnings gap, to sexual harassment in the workplace, to early childhood education. Here, we summarize some of the main findings of the research presented.
the earnings gap
A typical measure of the gender wage gap is the ratio of female median wages to male median wages. The figure below demonstrates that the gap in median earnings shrunk significantly in the 1970-80s but has only fallen slightly since 1990, now hovering around 81 percent [Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. 2017. “Earnings and Wages: Gender Wage Gap”]. Emmanuel Saez presented a more comprehensive measure of the gender wage gap that shows an even larger difference between male and female earnings [Piketty, Saez and Zucman, 2018]. Unlike the median wage gap, the gap measured by Saez and his coauthors takes into account people who are not employed or self-employment, and includes earnings and fringe benefits, such as pension contributions and health benefits. Under this full accounting, women earn as little as 57% of men's earnings.
Occupational segregation is another aspect of gender inequality in the labor market and one of the causes of the gender earnings gap. Dafna Gelbsiger of Facebook explained that one facet of this is ''vertical segregation,'' the phenomenon in which women work disproportionately more in positions with lower pay, lower chances for promotion and less authority than men. As the percentage of women in an occupation increases, Gelbsiger argued, the median wages of that occupation decrease. Only 20% of women in the US work in occupations where women's median hourly wage is at least 95% of men's median hourly wage; and only 5% of women work in occupations where the women's mean hourly wage is at least 95% of men's mean hourly wage [Weeden, Newhart, Gelbgiser, State of the Union 2018, "Occupational Segregation"].
Research presented by Adina Sterling of Stanford University suggests that social ties also play into the gender earnings and employment gap. While women have larger networks than men, they on average have significantly less co-workers in their network than men. This is important, Sterling asserted, because work-related relationships increase the likelihood of finding a job and succeeding in one's career.
Women more frequently live in poverty or in deep poverty than do men, according to research presented by Luke Shaefer of University of Michigan. Shaefer presented the figure below showing that while there was a small narrowing of the gap between the number of women and men in poverty during the 1990s, there is no evidence of a change since then. As a consequence, women are also more likely to use the social safety net than men - although qualitative evidence presented by Linda Burton of Duke University suggests that part of this difference is due to gender norms that stigmatize safety net use among men.
Differences in education can potentially affect the occupation and earnings that both sexes can generate. Sean Reardon of Stanford University presented research showing that while women in the US are graduating from college at higher rates than men, they are still underrepresented in STEM majors, receiving only 35% of STEM bachelor degrees in 2016. If a degree in STEM is more highly valued in the labor market, the under-representation of women in STEM majors could explain part of the gender earnings gap.
Reardon presented evidence that male students do not consistently outperform female students in mathematics and that in reading female students consistently outperform male students throughout school, by one-half to four-fifths of a grade-level [fig. 1, page 11, Pathways : State of the Union 2018]. The figure below shows that on average, males have a negligible lead in math in fourth grade, which disappears by eighth grade. Once they reach high school, however, there is a shift and boys outperform girls in math in the US, by approximately one-third of a grade level in 2012. Reardon also cited research in psychology that finds little evidence of innate differences between men and women in math or science [“Sex Differences in Intrinsic Aptitude for Mathematics and Science?: A Critical Review.” American Psychologist 60(9), 950–958]. Surprisingly, Reardon’s work revealed that the math gap in high-school is wider in wealthier communities, though an explanation for this fact is not known.
sexual assault and harassment
Amy Blackstone of University of Maine discussed the economic relevance of sexual assault and harassment in the workplace. To begin, Blackstone cited survey evidence showing that when asked about particular behaviors, up to 85% percent of women report behaviors such as unwanted touching, leering, and offensive sexual joking at work [U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. 2016. “Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace”]. Counter to the popular belief that powerful men prey on less powerful women, evidence suggests that women in supervisory roles are significantly more likely than other women to be sexually harassed [Uggen, C. and Blackstone, A. 2004. “Sexual Harassment as a Gendered Expression of Power.” American Sociological Review]. Blackstone highlighted evidence that sexual harassment pushes women to change their jobs and reduce their working hours which can lead to financial stress and hampered career paths.
It is important to consider the variety of types of harassment that all people may encounter. Sexual harassment varies by ethnicity, race, age and gender expression. Individuals identifying as LGBTQ report elevated rates of sexual harassment relative to the general population. Women of color face harassment and legal barriers that are distinct in nature and require additional attention [Crenshaw, Kimberle. 1992. “Race, Gender, and Sexual Harassment.” Southern California Law Review 65, 1467–1476.].
While there is still much to do, a common theme throughout the conference was that in order to achieve equity, our society's ingrained beliefs about gender roles and identities must adjust to more flexible and fluid notions of sex and gender. Sociologists Aliya Saperstein and David S. Pedulla spoke of the non-binary gender spectrum and intersectionality with race and ethnicity as key components in understanding gender equity. These topics present an opportunity for economists to learn more about how people's sex and gender identification may impact their well-being, incentives, and opportunities in life.
In our own profession, many people are working to promote diversity and equality in the field. For example, the most recent issue of the CSWEP Newsletter focuses on "Dealing with Sexual Harassment," a crucial topic that has not been discussed widely in the profession. However, our field still has far to come and much to learn in order to achieve gender equality in our own profession and to effectively contribute to research on gender equality in the broader US.
Author: Ada Gonzalez-Torres
AEA draft code of conduct
On January 5th, 2018, the AEA's Ad Hoc Committee to Consider a Code of Professional Conduct (hereafter, Ad Hoc Committee) released an interim report and a draft ''Code of Conduct'' for the economics profession. Clocking in at just over 200 words, the draft Code of Conduct is a concise statement on the values the economics profession strives to uphold. What is missing from the document is any such commitment or plan to uphold these values.
In order to craft an effective and appropriate Code of Conduct, the AEA must commit to a longer process that enlists and compensates a diverse group of economists to draft a robust document with a set of tangible commitments to improving conduct in our profession. We expect the group of economists crafting this document to include women, people of color, LGBTQ economists and those from a diverse set of socioeconomic, religious, national and intellectual backgrounds. These economists should be compensated financially for drafting a complete and thorough Code of Conduct that outlines concrete types of behavior that are deemed unacceptable and that institutionalizes a process through which violations can be reported and addressed.
The current draft emphasizes the importance of ''honesty and transparency in conducting and presenting research,'' as well as the AEA's support for ''participation and advancement in the economics profession by individuals from diverse backgrounds.'' The acknowledgement of these two standards is crucial to maintaining a high quality of research and respect in the profession. Given the behavior we have seen on EJMR and research showing systemic disadvantage for women and economists of color, it is clear that our profession has not been living up to to these ideals. The AEA's draft Code of Conduct takes an important step towards acknowledging the important and simple standards that all research should adhere to.
However in order to turn bold ideas into a reality, the AEA needs to establish institutions and systems that will incentivize the behavior they endorse, and address issues as they come up (and evolve over time). Professions such as sociology and law have modeled the type of robust code of conduct that a profession such as economics could adopt.
These other professions have established more specific guidelines for conduct with other professionals, clients, research subjects, audience members, and the general public. While the current draft put out by the AEA does allude to social media and spaces where comments can be made anonymously as venues that need to maintain a high standard of conduct, they do not explicitly address the specific forms of misconduct that would violate the Code. This leaves ample room for ambiguity and inaction in the case of misconduct.
Further, the Code does not offer a system of recourse for those who have witnessed or fallen victim to violations of conduct. Without a formal process of reporting and addressing violations, it is not clear that this Code will exist as anything other than wishful thinking. Again, other professions offer models for the type of committee that could receive and address reports of violations and address the ongoing need to adapt the code to an ever changing world.
Finally, the AEA has taken steps to support economists of diverse backgrounds by supporting CSWEP, CSMGEP, and the Ad Hoc LGBTQ working group. This work needs to be formalized into a concrete plan that will sustain the work of these committees without relying upon the labor and time of the underrepresented group members. It is a privilege that we have strong people leading these groups. But in order to truly make inclusion and representation a priority the AEA cannot rely solely on those who have been systematically disadvantaged.
It is in this sense that we feel that the draft Code of Conduct is incomplete. The Code states that it is the collective responsibility of economists to “develop institutional arrangements and a professional environment that promote free expression concerning economics.” However, to date, these institutions (such that they exist) have been championed primarily by those who have faced barriers to entering and contributing to the field. Without making a formal commitment to concrete and explicit support for free expression, ethical conduct, and the promotion of underrepresented groups, the AEA simply maintains the status quo - a status quo that is not acceptable by any measure.
In a supplementary document published alongside the draft Code of Conduct, the Ad Hoc Committee defended their choice to write a ''parsimonious'' Code of Conduct. In doing so, the Committee punted to the AEA journals as a venue for upholding professional conduct in the publication process. This emphasis on such a narrow venue highlights the incompleteness of the process to write and adopt a Code of Conduct that guides conduct in our profession as a whole. The supplementary document also includes a list of concrete ideas that the AEA may choose to adopt in the future to improve the profession. This list is a welcomed start to developing a full Code of Conduct (and we at WEB may respond to the specific recommendations in a future post). However, it’s relegation to the end of a supplementary document again demonstrates that the current draft of the Code of Conduct takes no explicit steps towards an improved discipline.
The Ad Hoc Committee states, in their supplementary document, that ''if the AEA decides it wants to adopt a detailed professional code of conduct ... it would need a committee with sufficient time to prepare such a document, including provisions for collecting suggestions and feedback from the profession.'' This statement echos the call that we have made here. We suggest that this work be done and that if it is not done, then the AEA will not have made progress towards a more equitable discipline.
Author: Emily Eisner
Hiring Diverse Candidates
It’s recruiting and hiring season, and we know that many departments have struggled with the question of how to recruit underrepresented researchers to their departments. This is a difficult, nuanced, and controversial task. Juan Carlos Suárez stated on Twitter that
It is important to be thoughtful as to why diversity and inclusion in economics is important. And it is important to make a clear and defined plan as to how to address this need in your department. Here, we present a set of tips and tools for anyone to use while thinking about how to hire historically underrepresented researchers.
Calling your network: Professors may be particularly likely to recommend students that remind them of themselves at a young age, or their successful peers. That is problematic in a largely white, male profession. When making calls to other departments, be sure to include the question ''Who are your top female and minority candidates?'' Ask members of your network to particularly encourage qualified underrepresented candidates to apply.
Do your own search: We also recommend conducting your own broad search for potential applicants in addition to reviewing those recommended by faculty at other institutions. At Berkeley, WEB conducts an extensive search of job market websites for highly qualified candidates whose research is a good fit for the position. We pass the list of names on to the hiring departments, who often reach out and encourage these candidates to apply.
Discussion of candidates
Set evaluation criteria ahead of time: There is a great piece on this by David Wilcox, Director of the Division of Research and Statistics at the Fed, in the latest CSWEP newsletter. At the Fed,
Wilcox also stresses not including “fit” or potential for friendship in the criteria, and instead focusing on those who bring something that is missing from the group. There is a sample rubric available here from the University of Texas.
Keep common biases in mind when reading letters: Hiring committees are often looking for “geniuses,” and academics are less likely to view women or African-Americans as geniuses (Leslie et al. 2015). Take this and other forms of bias into consideration when reading letters of recommendation. The University of Arizona Commission on the Status of Women lists common differences in the way we describe men and women in letters of recommendation. Men tend to be praised with standout words such as “excellent” or “unparalleled,” whereas women tend to be described by words such as “hardworking” or “meticulous.” (Trix & Psenka, 2003). Trix & Psenka also found that letters for female applicants were shorter, had fewer mentions of research and scientific terminology, and less use of possessive phrases such as “her skills and abilities.” A letter gender bias calculator is available online if you would like to score your own letters or the letters you receive.
Set evaluation criteria ahead of time: Again, setting criteria ahead of time is helpful for combating bias. This website has some useful tips: before the first interview, create an interview rubric that will be used for all candidates. Have a single pool of questions, and choose which questions to ask which candidates before the first interview.
Confidence ≠ competence: When evaluating candidates, keep in mind that confidence and competence are not the same thing. Candidate self-perception and self-presentation can depend on a number of factors, including the potential for people do react badly to displays of confidence. One study found that, when interviewers perceived female candidates as ambitious and self-reliant, (1) the interviewers judged the female candidate to also have low social skills, and (2) interviewers shifted hiring criteria to more strongly emphasize social skills (Phelan et al. 2008).
Interview location: Be sensitive to the fact that hotel rooms can be an uncomfortable interview location, particularly with a female candidate and an all-male panel. For this reason, and many others, try to have a gender balance on the interview committee.
Use EJM to avoid EJMR: Post the status of your open position on econjobmarket.org so that candidates do not have to visit EJMR to find out information about the progress of the application cycle.
The ''two in the pool'' effect: One study found that the odds of hiring a woman for a faculty position were 79 times greater if there were at least two women, rather than only one woman, in the finalist pool. The odds of hiring a minority were 194 times greater if there were at least two people of color in the finalist pool. This may be because having only one woman or minority in the group highlights how that candidate deviates from the norm (Johnson et al. 2016). Ensure that there are at least two women and two people of color in the group chosen for flyouts.
Interpreting candidate presentation style: Again, candidate self-presentation style will vary by background and is not always a good indicator of ability. Audiences at economics job talks are notoriously aggressive, but there is evidence that white women and African-American men are penalized for responding aggressively, while white men are not (Brescoll & Uhlmann 2008; Livingston et al. 2012). Remind faculty to keep this in mind and focus on the content rather than tone of candidate responses.
Set evaluation criteria ahead of time: Have all faculty members who will be involved in the hiring conversation write down a rubric on what they are looking for before the first job talk, with as much detail as possible. Ask them to stick to this rubric.
Being alone in the department as a woman or person of color can be alienating. During the visit, demonstrate that your department has women and people of color who are thriving (if this is the case). Highlight the aspects of your school and department that may be particularly appealing to women or people of color, such as paid parental leave or grant opportunities for minority researchers. If your female or minority faculty are not currently taking a disproportionate number of administrative tasks (Guarino & Borden 2017), arrange for a meeting with a female faculty member during the visit. Or, if your department is not diverse, know that you may have to invest extra resources into hiring diverse candidates now in order to attract a broader talent pool in the future.
Continued learning and improvement
Recruiting a diverse faculty will require work over many years, and we suggest you continue learning throughout the process. In particular, commit to publishing statistics on diversity for all steps of the process, to identify where women and people of color are dropped. Solicit feedback from all candidates who turn down offers. The goal is to learn about all stages of the recruitment process: qualified candidates who don’t apply, who turn down an interview, who decline a flyout, and who reject an offer.
Author: Deirdre Sutula
2017 research round-up
This winter season, as you snuggle under a cozy blanket and reflect on the past year, consider reading some of this year’s most important new research on diversity and discrimination. We’ve put together a list of papers from 2017 that demonstrate the state of diversity in economics and reflect the challenges of eliminating gender and racial disparities in the workforce.
For each paper we’ve included a brief summary. We recommend reading with hot chocolate in hand and an eye towards how to implement more inclusive, equitable systems in our own daily lives. Happy 2018!
The Persistent Effect of Temporary Affirmative Action
American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, 2017
The unintended consequences of "ban the box": Statistical discrimination and employment outcomes when criminal histories are hidden
Jennifer L. Doleac and Benjamin Hansen
Working Paper, 2017
Gender biases in student evaluations of teaching
Journal of Public Economics, 2017
Publishing while female: Are women held to higher standards? Evidence from peer review
Working Paper, 2017
Gender Representation in Economics Across Topics and Time: Evidence from the NBER Summer Institute
Anusha Chari and Paul Goldsmith-Pinkham
Working Paper, 2017
More Reading! (i.e. some papers you may have seen already but should check out if you haven't):
Author: Emily Eisner
Engaging with Allies
Emily Eisner and Megan Lang
with reflections contributed by Karl Dunkle Werner, Gabe Englander, Scott Kaplan, and Derek Wolfson
“What can I do?” We heard that question from many men in our field in the wake of Alice Wu’s paper and, more broadly, the #MeToo movement this fall. We thought about writing a “How to be an ally” post for economists. Instead, we asked four aspiring allies in our field to find out how to be an ally for themselves, then compile that knowledge for others who would like to know.
We’ve organized the content from their numerous interviews with women and minority faculty and grad students in our field at UC Berkeley here. These are resource pages that we’ll continue to build and update over time.
We also asked all four men to write reflections on their learning throughout this process. To some, these reflections may seem all too familiar. To some they may be revelatory. Some people may disagree with what they read, or feel disempowered by the thought that white men have any role to play in improving opportunities for women and minorities in the field. Some may find that these reflections resonate deeply. The one thing that is clear is that none of us has all the answers and that people’s experiences cannot be reduced into one tidy lesson.
By offering the four reflections below, we hope to
There is not one way to be an ally just as there is not one correct way to mitigate discrimination in our field. Below are four reflections from the male graduate students we asked to help us write a blog post. We hope they spark thought and conversation. Feel free to reach out to us with any reactions or stories of your own.
Before this process, I hadn’t given thought to what my gender meant in terms of my relationship with my advisor. We are both men, and we have been able to build a strong relationship both at work and outside of it. This relationship has undoubtedly improved my education and ability to do good research.
I took for granted that every graduate student may not have a similar relationship with their mentor. But a point that came up again and again in interviews and the process of writing this blog was how the power dynamics associated with advisors and advisees were inflated by gender dynamics between these two parties. I was educated by a woman, who said that “the point here is not that women want to completely shut down informal activities with advisors, but that navigating those situations one-on-one is more fraught for them.”
I came to understand that it's an additional burden for a woman to have to think about the implications of their relationships with their advisors more seriously than I do. At the same time, advisors may face the same calculation and have difficulty in offering opportunities to advisees of different races and genders. This can have serious academic consequences. We as males need to be cognizant of this calculus; we can suggest that our advisors try to plan activities where all of their advisees can participate, and when we become professors or take on other positions, we can work to create group activities that are comfortable for and inclusive of everyone.
The first year of an econ PhD program is hard. It’s an enormous amount of math, a slew of all-day problem sets, and an endless stream of opportunities to bang your head against the wall. Sitting down with my classmates who tackled first year while raising a family was eye-opening. With large chunks of time occupied by children, problem sets and research are pushed to late nights or early mornings. Choosing when I work is a privilege I had never considered. Those with family responsibilities may have schedules precluding group-work and opportunities to compare notes. Young white guys are disproportionately free of these responsibilities, one of many factors entrenching existing disparities. There have been some attempts in the field to accommodate parents, but coming up with a solution is not easy. We need to think harder about how graduate school’s demanding workload interacts with existing social structures, making the field particularly unwelcoming for women and economists of color.
At a more individual level, my conversations with classmates highlighted how important it can be, in moments of self-doubt, to hear that other people also struggle. In our conversations, people repeatedly brought up how much an affirming word can matter, and how big a deal it is to know that other people face similar challenges. I had always considered myself implicitly supportive, available when someone tells me they need a hand. That’s not enough. I need to do a better job checking in, making sure my classmates are doing well, and celebrating their successes (in grad school and beyond).
Shortly after beginning his PhD, K remembers asking the professor who helped recruit him, “Where are all the black and African people?” K, one of only a couple of black students in the department, said that it would have been helpful if someone—a staff member, faculty, or another student—had explicitly acknowledged this fact and talked about some of the things he might expect to feel over the next 5+ years.
For example, K felt an extra layer of imposter syndrome at the beginning of his PhD program (the garden variety is familiar to many graduate students). Academic setbacks were especially painful because he feared they suggested to others that he was not accepted to his program on his merits.
K also regularly wonders how his identity influences how others interact with him. For instance, when he visited Berkeley after being accepted, a professor asked him what he scored on the math section of the GRE. Does this professor ask this question to most prospective students, or did this professor ask because K is black and African?
I had not previously considered that non-white, non-male economists have less control over how they are perceived. This lack of control creates pressure to make decisions that satisfy other people’s expectations. I don’t face this pressure. Importantly, all this time spent thinking about how one is perceived takes away attention from research. I already find graduate school to be emotionally and intellectually harrowing at times; all of us should try to relieve the additional burden that women and minority students experience. So I will reflect on the stereotypes and biases that I hold, and try not to impose them on others, especially when I am in a position of power. I will also try to take K’s advice and have more conversations that explicitly acknowledge identity and how it influences individuals’ experiences in economics.
My participation in these interviews spurred an intense inner dialogue on what it means to actually be an ally. Before, I called myself an ally but now I’m beginning to understand how to put words into action. I’ve come to the conclusion that being well-intentioned is simply not good enough.
I’ve become more cognizant of the things I get for free by being a straight, white male. I don’t have to analyze the implication of walking for a coffee with my male advisor. I don’t have to act “less feminine” to gain the respect of my peers. I don’t have to worry about uncomfortable one-on-one interviews with male faculty in private hotel rooms during the job market.
These interviews also propelled me to query my own experience and reflect on if I ever consciously or unconsciously made it difficult for women and minorities in economics. I had. Did I ever call women “dudes” or refer to groups of women as “guys”? Yes. Was I more likely to interrupt women in conversations? Probably. Did I react to research differently because the author was a woman? I hoped not but I could not be 100% sure.
Truly being an ally will be an everyday learning process. My involvement with this blog post has already spurred some formative changes but I do not know everything. As a start, I now often ask myself: “Did I read this paper/treat this person/react to seminar comments/write this email/grade this paper/conduct office hours/etc. differently because this person is a woman/minority?” If I’m not sure, I will ask a friend so I may continue learning how to be an effective ally.
We’d like to extend our profound thanks to all of the people we interviewed, to our classmates in ARE, Econ, and Haas, and to WEB. We’re all going to make mistakes, but we’re keeping this conversation open so we can learn and improve. Please join us!
An interview with alice wu
This month, I had the pleasure of speaking with Alice Wu, the UC Berkeley graduate who, in her thesis, exposed the gendered and sexist language used to describe women on EJMR, a website used widely by economists to disseminate information on PhD job market candidates. During our discussion, Wu and I discussed her intellectual motivation as well as the material consequences of her work. To Wu, her thesis was an exercise in producing thorough economic research and exploring how to employ modern machine learning methods to examine economically interesting labor market interactions. However, with the explosion of her work in the news and into the consciousness of the economic field, Wu recognizes the value of her work in spurring an important conversation among economists regarding how we can make our field more inclusive.
The transcript of our conversation has been lightly edited for readability.
EE: What led you to study EJMR?
AW: Honestly, it was a bit unexpected. I was picking a research topic for my senior thesis. I had worked for David Card for a semester before and he was going to be my advisor. In a conversation while I was debating research topics, he pointed out that there was a controversy going on at the time regarding EJMR and asked whether I would be interested in studying that platform. I had taken a machine learning course where I had gotten some experience with text analysis, so I decided to see if I could employ those skills while writing my thesis.
EE: Were you familiar with EJMR as an undergrad, before coming up with your research project?
AW: I first heard about EJMR during my junior year of college at UC Berkeley. I had some friends who were also undergrads and were interested in reading online reviews of their professors, and so they found the website. These were male friends and they knew I wanted to go to graduate school in economics, so I remember them showing me and saying “look, these [are] going to be your future colleagues!” I was shocked when I saw the explicit sexual content of posts and the racism and sexism on the website. When I asked my friends who were graduate students at Cal if they knew of the website they seemed really embarrassed.
EE: What has been the most challenging part of this research project for you?
AW: The most challenging part was definitely the beginning, after I had the raw text data and had done the cleaning of the dataset. I was thinking about what to look at and the first thing that I tried was sentiment analysis, which I had used in my machine learning course. However, many of the online open-source packages that perform sentiment analysis on text are built for specific styles of text or types of documents. For example, the sentiment analysis picked out the comments about women as beautiful as “positive” comments. When I saw that the algorithm I was using picked out the comments about women’s appearance as “positive” I realized the sentiments assumed by the algorithm didn’t match the purpose of the forum. It didn’t feel right or appropriate to me to discuss people’s physical appearance on EJMR, so it seemed strange to label it as positive. At that point, I had to take a step out of the pre-existing packages and think about what I wanted to get out of the data and what my actual questions were. That was the most challenging part of the research project.
EE: It’s exciting that you were able to apply machine learning and text analysis techniques in your thesis. What was your first experience using machine learning techniques and how do you see them contributing to economics?
AW: The project I did in my machine learning class at UC Berkeley was a sentiment analysis of tweets on twitter. I looked at whether tweets were positive or negative using LASSO to pick up positive or negative terms.
The machine learning literature is very different from the economics literature in terms of what type of analysis they are performing. It seems to me that overall, people who study machine learning only care about the prediction power of a model, rather than estimating and studying the relationship between two variables of interest. For example, there is a method called the “ensemble” method in machine learning where an iterative process over multiple models is used to fit data. In the end, the ensemble method aggregates results from the different models to get the best prediction. In economics, we can’t really use this method because we wouldn’t be able to make inference. If we want to use machine learning techniques in economics, we need to be able to perform some sort of causal inference. In my project, I had to think hard about what I was measuring and what economic interpretation I could infer from the data I was looking at.
EE: Turning back to the question of sexism in economics, why do you think women are underrepresented? Do you think that the online conversations on EJMR reflect people’s day-to-day experience?
AW: There are multiple components to answering this question. The stereotype literature (which is more psychology than economics) says that young girls often think they will be more successful in humanities than in quantitative fields. That belief can guide what courses women and girls take in high school and college. Since economics requires a lot of math, many women are unprepared to actually take economics courses or go on in the field. This is an entry level issue.
However, in addition to the entry level issue, there is a “leaky pipeline” in economics (higher rate of attrition for women than for men). This poses another problem and is more a workplace issue. There is an issue in the culture of economics that might turn people away, and my paper exposes a part of that culture.
I hope that the people who post these crude and objectifying comments are not representative of the profession. But overall, the whole atmosphere and culture of a profession can be shaped by a select few people. When you have a few people standing out in a certain way, that has a big impact on the culture of the field. It doesn’t really matter who these people are but just their existence and participation is disturbing.
EE: What do you see as the main contribution of your paper?
AW: I’m really happy to see that this study has triggered an open discussion about the culture of economics and how it may impact women’s representation in the field. People are acknowledging that there’s an issue and that’s the first step to addressing it.
EE: How do you see the relationship between academic research and politics/change?
AW: The honest answer is that I didn’t think about politics at all when I was writing this originally. I was working on my senior thesis and focused on the research question itself and I didn’t see it as a political tool in any way. However I’m glad that it has sparked conversation and may induce positive change.
EE: Your paper focused on the difference in language used to describe men and women on EJMR. However, there was clearly evidence of homophobia and racism in your results. What do you make of this evidence?
AW: I see very problematic language with respect to race and homophobia but the way I designed my research question I was looking at the simple difference between language used to describe men and women. The homophobia definitely shows up in my analysis with respect to how the LGBT community are described online. However, there should be more careful analysis on these topics.
Author: Emily Eisner