The #EconMeToo Movement
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We have previously written about the gender pay gap and the leaky pipeline in economics. This article highlights other gender-related issues within the field, particularly around gender-based harassment and discrimination in economics.
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Discrimination in Economics
Not only are women outnumbered and underpaid in economics, they also face a disproportionate amount of harassment and discrimination within the field.
These issues are unfortunately very common; an AEA survey found that 48% of female economists reported they had experienced discrimination based on their sex, compared to just 3% of male respondents. Some of these other forms of discrimination include not being invited to speak at panels as often as men, and receiving extra scrutiny during presentations relative to their male peers.
Harassment in Economics
A recent movement, dubbed #EconMeToo on Twitter, has drawn renewed attention to the sexual harassment, assault, and other abuses faced primarily by women in economics. This recent movement began when a professor of economics at an American university spoke out publicly against specific economists. They did so after allegedly being in conversation with a number of female economists who complained about sexual harassment and even assault. These public accusations have been controversial, but the accusers have alleged that very little was accomplished through official channels, and they had no other choice but to escalate.
Part of the lingering frustration that has led to this movement is that even despite prior efforts to combat sexual harassment, there are a lack of meaningful consequences for perpetrators in certain spaces in economics. For example, in 2019, the AEA implemented a policy that allows economists to file complaints about sexual misconduct from others, particularly at conferences.
Conferences are a realm where university policies often do not help prevent misconduct or punish perpetrators, because attendees are usually from different universities. However, since the AEA is a professional organization and does not have authority over economists’ actual jobs or employers, its policies have little power to enforce consequences. Unsurprisingly, those who have complained through the AEA policy have expressed that problems have persisted due to the lack of consequences for perpetrators.
It is unclear how the recent resurgence in attention on gender inequality in economics will affect the field. We hope the environment improves, though time will tell.
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