TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Why Every Good Economist Should Be A Feminist

ProMarket, Why Every Good Economist Should Be Feminist:

As every good economist knows, markets work best when they are competitive. Therefore, every good economist should also be a feminist, defending a level playing field for all genders.

[T]he academic world, and especially the economic and finance profession, can learn immensely from one sexual harassment case that did go to court: Ravina v. Columbia, decided last week in a federal court in New York. Enrichetta Ravina, then an assistant professor at Columbia Business School, alleged that Geert Bekaert, a full professor there, sexually propositioned her. Ravina stated that when she rejected him, Bekaert retaliated by badmouthing her in the academic community and stalling their joint research project, in which he had control of the data. The jury acquitted Bekaert for the sexual harassment charge, but found him liable of retaliation, forcing him and Columbia to pay $750,000 in compensatory damages, with Bekaert, alone, paying another $500,000 in punitive damages (for a more extensive coverage).

The first lesson to be learned from the trial is that sexual harassment cases are very hard to prove in a court of law, even when multiple women complain at the same time, as in this case. In the absence of corroborating evidence, sexual harassment cases often come down to her word against his and the relative credibility of each party. Litigation is too expensive (both monetarily and emotionally) and not enough. While we should encourage and support women to speak up, we also need to explore other ways to make academia an environment where women can thrive. We senior faculty (and we male senior faculty in particular) should make respectful behavior towards women an explicit factor in our promotion and hiring decisions, in the same way teaching and mentoring PhD students currently are. In addition we should require—as suggested by Paola Sapienza, a finance faculty at Northwestern and board member of the Academic Female Finance Committee—from outside hires, especially those who come with an offer of tenure, a self-declaration that they behaved according to the ethics codes of their previous institutions, making it more difficult for known harassers to recycle themselves.

It is sad that the legitimate desire to increase women’s tenure rates in economics and finance has led to more discussions about relaxing the tenure standard for women rather than about improving the environment in which women operate. Creating an environment where the dominant perspective is not defined only by men enriches universities with talent that otherwise would have been lost. By contrast, creating different tenure standards for men and women would only have the effect of stigmatizing deserving female faculty as second-class faculty. ...

There will never be gender equality in academia until men care about sexual harassment as much as women; until creating a gender-unbiased environment is as important as being a good teacher; until the power conferred by the control of data is not left to the arbitrariness of the individuals. If this trial helps move us even a little in this direction, the pain and suffering it has caused would not have been in vain.

ProMarket, When It Comes to Gender Imbalances, Academia’s Ignorance Is Self-Serving

Legal Education, Tax | Permalink


'Feminism' is the habit of looking at social phenomena with the assumption that women have options and men have obligations; 'Feminism' is Sandra Fluke with an open mouth saying 'I want'; 'Feminism' is the habit of evaluating phenomena with the assumption that it's an affront that a woman be held accountable for anything; 'Feminism' is the notion that social practice is unjust when it isn't built around the imperative of making things comfortable and convenient for women qua women. Why would an economist in his capacity as an economist subscribe to this nexus of attitudes?

Posted by: Art Deco | Aug 11, 2018 12:47:44 PM

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