New Approaches to Ending Harassment in Economics and Science
Exciting breakthroughs are happening in both policy initiatives and research findings that may lead to real changes in access to opportunity for women and minorities in the fields of economics and science. Starting with the field of economics, Ben Casselman and Jim Tankersley of the New York Times report that Ben Bernanke, the current president of the American Economic Association (AEA), has acknowledged that “unfortunately, [the field of economics has] a reputation for hostility toward women and minorities.” This acknowledgment is a big deal because leaders at the highest levels will have to be the ones to make and implement real change. Janet Yellen, next year’s president of the AEA, agrees that change is needed. Casselman and Tankersley note that economics has had a diversity problem for a long time:
- Only about a third of economics doctorates went to women, and the gender gap is wider at senior levels.
- Racial and ethnic minorities are also underrepresented.
- Barely 10 percent of tenured finance professors and 16 percent of tenure-track faculty are women in an AEA branch in Atlanta.
Casselman and Tankersley note in another article that a recent survey jolted Bernanke and the AEA into taking action. The authors report that a far-reaching survey conducted by the AEA involving 9,000 current and past members, both women and men, found an alarming rate of discrimination and harassment:
- Half of the women reported being treated unfairly because of their sex compared to 3 percent of men.
- Half of the women avoided speaking at a conference to guard against harassment or “disrespectful treatment.”
- Hundreds of female economists say they have been stalked, touched inappropriately, or sexually assaulted. Overall, one in five reported being subjected to unwanted sexual advances.
As a result of this survey, the AEA has appointed an ombudsman empowered to investigate and establish professional consequences for those found to violate a new antiharassment code. This structural change is significant because until now, women and men in economics experiencing harassment and discrimination had nowhere to go to report it except to their own institutions, which have a…