November 15, 2019

Women in Economics Report Rampant Sexual Assault and Bias

But Marianne Bertrand, a University of Chicago economist who oversaw the survey as the head of a special committee on the professional climate in economics, called the results distressing. “The responses are sort of a mandate” for the association and economics departments to act, she said.

If anything, the survey most likely understates the problems. Despite efforts to reach former members, it left out many people who left the profession after facing discrimination or harassment, or who decided against becoming economists at all.

“We’re certainly surveying the winners,” said Lisa D. Cook, a Michigan State University economist who is one of the field’s most prominent black women.

Ms. Cook said women, and particularly black women, had long felt that their ideas were being dismissed or that they weren’t being given the same opportunities as their white male colleagues. But she said she and her peers often pushed those suspicions to the side.

“I’m just going to keep being nice and one day people will believe me,” she said she remembered thinking earlier in her career. “I’m going to keep being smart, and one day people will believe me. I’m going to keep sending out these papers, and one day people will believe me.”

Indeed, the survey results also showed how harassment and discrimination ripple through the profession. A third of black economists said they had “not applied for or taken a particular employment position” to avoid harassment or discrimination. Nearly half of women said they had not presented an idea or asked a question at a conference or at their school for the same reason.

Martha Bailey, a University of Michigan economist and a member of the A.E.A.’s executive committee, said she was one of them. She said the survey — and a broader reckoning within economics in recent years — had forced many women to confront the possible impact that sexism has had on them and their careers.

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