WOMEN IN ECONOMICS LÉMAN
A joint initiative by PhD students at the Graduate Institute Geneva, the University of Geneva, the University of Lausanne and EPFL.
In the fall of 2019, we founded a local Women in Economics initiative. Our main goal is to kick-off a broad conversation about how systemic gender biases affect us as a community of economic researchers. We also aim to create and strengthen our local network of women economists by means of: (i) our series of monthly workshops in which we discuss research and personal experiences on related topics and (ii) our mentoring program matching local women PhD students with professors. Find out more below!
What is the situation of women in economics today? If you look at the numbers, you better start making male friends, or it will be pretty lonely. Women are under-represented in economics: among the top 100 US universities, only 1/3 of undergraduates are women, and it gets worse – only 14% of full professors in PhD granting departments are women. Among macroeconomists, only 20% are women. Clearly, economics is not attractive for young women and becomes even less attractive over time for those who join. It does not have to be this way.
In the fall of 2019, we founded a local Women in Economics initiative. We got together with a group of economics PhD students and professors from the Graduate Institute, the University of Geneva, the University of Lausanne and EPFL who are keen to learn and exchange about gender discrimination in the economics profession. Our main goal is to kick-off a broad conversation about how gender biases (and those against other minorities) affect us as a community of economic researchers. We also aim to create and strengthen our local network of women economists.
Our first pillar is the monthly workshop series discussing papers on various related topics. Each of our workshops brings together research insights and personal experiences on gender discrimination in the economics profession. In our discussions and brainstorming sessions, we carefully balance the two by taking research as a natural starting point and then discussing our own experiences, various policy interventions and perspectives on the given topic. An important aspect is our safe-space agreement (we speak under Chatham House Rules) that allows us to share openly, thereby raising acceptance and awareness of (mostly shared) existing problems.
The general take-aways from our discussions were sobering (broadly in line with the 2019 AEA Professional Climate Survey, p. 8 onwards). Gender bias is a real impediment to our careers and mental well-being in the profession. This is an unsatisfying situation for everyone involved, a bad equilibrium if you like. However, we firmly believe that we can do better by acknowledging the problem's systemic nature, better understanding its causes, and generating more awareness of the underlying mechanisms. We encourage all of you to join the conversation. Some may feel a stigma about discussing "women's issues". You are not alone. But by giving in to this feeling, things will not change. We need allies, and role models, in particular, to push forward progressive policies.
Our second pillar is a mentoring program. We match women PhD students from one of our institutions with women professors from the area based on research interests. The idea is for students to feel free to ask for guidance and advice distinct from the type of advice a supervisor would give. In particular, we wish to create a setup where students are at ease to ask questions and/or admit failures they might otherwise fear would negatively impact their future careers. In doing so, we would like to improve the (too often dismal) experience of women PhD students in economics in our local network and support them in mastering this crucial part of their career - both professionally and mentally.
We hope that this initiative, one of the numerous others out there, emphasizes the systemic nature of gender biases. Acknowledging it and talking about it is the first step towards mitigation. We also want to motivate as many women and men to speak up about the discrimination they or others around them face. We hear you. Feel free to reach out!
WHAT WE DO
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