Paul L. Caron

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

NY Times: Female Economists Push Their Field Toward A #MeToo Reckoning

MeToo 3Following up on my previous posts:

New York Times, Female Economists Push Their Field Toward a #MeToo Reckoning:

The economics profession is facing a mounting crisis of sexual harassment, discrimination and bullying that women in the field say has pushed many of them to the sidelines — or out of the field entirely.

Those issues took center stage at the American Economic Association’s annual meeting, the largest gathering of the profession, last weekend in Atlanta. Spurred by substantiated allegations of harassment against one of the most prominent young economists in the country, top women in the field shared stories of their own struggles with discrimination. Graduate students and junior professors demanded immediate steps by the A.E.A. to help victims of harassment and discipline economists who violate the group’s newly adopted code of conduct.

Leading male economists offered an unprecedented acknowledgment of harassment and discrimination in the field. “Economics certainly has a problem,” Ben Bernanke, the former Federal Reserve chairman, who took over as A.E.A. president this year, said during a panel discussion. The profession has, “unfortunately, a reputation for hostility toward women and minorities,” he said.

Janet L. Yellen, who was the first chairwoman of the Fed and will head the A.E.A. next year, said that addressing the issue “should be the highest priority” for economists in the years to come.

During a panel discussion on gender issues, Ms. Yellen was one of several women who shared stories of discrimination and bullying. Her fellow panelists described a list of “known” male predators in academic departments who have never been punished for behavior that included repeatedly making unwanted sexual advances toward junior colleagues.

One of the panelists, Susan Athey, a Stanford economist, said she had bought “khakis and loafers” to fit in with the men in the lunchroom of her first economics department, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She did so even though the department was the “most supportive environment” she has encountered in her career.

“I spent all my time hoping that no one would remember I was female,” said Ms. Athey, a past winner of a prestigious award for young economists. “I didn’t want to remind people that I’m a sexual being.”

Economics has long struggled with diversity. Only about a third of economics doctorates go to women, and the gender gap is wider at senior levels of the profession. Racial and ethnic minorities — particularly African-Americans and Latinos — are even more underrepresented. And notably, the gender gap in economics is wider than in other social sciences and, at least by some measures, traditionally male-dominated fields such as science and math.

Certain subfields, like finance, have a particularly poor record of advancing women. A branch of the American Finance Association presented survey results in Atlanta that show barely 10 percent of tenured finance professors, and 16 percent of tenure-track faculty, are women. In economics as a whole, women accounted for about 23 percent of tenured and tenure-track faculty in 2015. ...

The economics association last year approved its first code of professional conduct, which calls for “equal opportunity and fair treatment for all economists” regardless of sex, race or other characteristics. The association also created a standing committee to address diversity, and is surveying its members about harassment and discrimination.

But many economists, particularly younger ones, pushed leaders here for more aggressive action. Hundreds of graduate students and research assistants have signed an open letter calling for more explicit codes of conduct, stronger enforcement and better systems for reporting abuses, among other reforms. ...

Many male economists long dismissed claims of bias and discrimination, arguing that gender disparities must reflect differences in preference or ability. They pointed to theories that predict that, in the simplified world of economic models, discrimination on the basis of characteristics like gender and race would disappear because of competition.

In recent years, however, a growing body of research has found evidence of discrimination at virtually every stage of the profession, from undergraduate enrollment to tenure decisions. Erin Hengel, a University of Liverpool economist, has found that women are held to higher standards of writing and research than their male colleagues. Alice Wu, then an undergraduate at the University of California, Berkeley, made waves two years ago with a paper documenting rampant misogyny and hostility toward women on a popular online forum for graduate students.

One provocatively titled paper presented in Atlanta asked “Does Economics Make You Sexist?

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The problem with economics professors in general is, as a collective group, they either failed to understand supply and demand in Econ 101 or they fail to appreciate personal financial outcomes...hence I'm always leery of Econ PhDs in general. If fewer women get Econ PhDs, that probably means women are smarter than men. Econ programs pump out so many PhDs their wages are severely depressed compared to other related disciplines in academia. I would suggest that people who love economics (and understand economics and supply v. demand) get PhDs in finance, accounting, or management. If fewer women are getting PhDs in those disciplines then we might have a problem.

Posted by: Anon | Jan 25, 2019 6:03:36 AM

Costco-khakis: patriarchal, or just economical?

Posted by: Anand Desai | Jan 16, 2019 7:52:29 PM

Perhaps Ms. Athey, PhD, may someday realize that it is inappropriate for anyone to "remind" her coworkers that she is a sexual being. OTOH, her coworkers may need to be reminded that she is, in fact, a mammal. I don't really know.

Posted by: David Driscoll | Jan 16, 2019 6:28:25 PM

I don't think a segment of the population that continues to pay 250% more for haircuts and $45 for 70 cents' worth of lip dye and waxy filler is in any position to lecture others about economics and economic management. Tasty salads, yes. Economics, no.

Posted by: Bunyip | Jan 16, 2019 1:54:49 PM

This seems to be more a comment about experiences in the academic environment than about experiences among economists in particular. One would suppose reading this that all economists are members of university faculties.

Posted by: Joseph W. Mooney | Jan 16, 2019 12:54:57 PM


And the shaving company just needs to sell razors.

Posted by: a bee ee? | Jan 16, 2019 8:11:32 AM

"Janet L. Yellen...said that addressing the issue “should be the highest priority” for economists in the years to come."

As opposed to doing their job? Sometimes the coffee shop just needs to sell coffee.

Posted by: LAG | Jan 16, 2019 5:41:48 AM

"Economics has long struggled with diversity. Only about a third of economics doctorates go to women"

Now do other disciplines, NYT. Most college degrees are earned by females, so what is the issue here, really?

Posted by: StevePcola | Jan 16, 2019 5:26:51 AM

Janet Yellen gets her virtue points with her statement, but it's probable that she got opportunities and became the Fed Chairman because she was a woman rather than in spite of it.

Posted by: Woody | Jan 15, 2019 8:33:23 AM