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CEO DATELINE – Association survey finds wide discrimination against women in economics

March 19, 2019
By Walt Williams

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Preliminary data from an American Economic Association survey shows that nearly half of female respondents believe they have been discriminated against on the basis of sex in the last 10 years, and the group is vowing to address the problem.

AEA commissioned a survey of economists in 2018 to gauge the professional climate in the field in terms of sex, ethnicity and sexual orientation. More than 9,200 people participated and the raw results were released Monday. According to an analysis of the data by the publication Inside Higher Ed, only 20 percent of women were satisfied with the overall professional climate in the field compared to 40 percent of men. Among the findings:

  • 69 percent of women said their work was not taken as seriously as that of their male colleagues;
  • 48 percent of women said they have experienced sexual bias within the last 10 years, compared to 3 percent of men;
  • 29 percent of nonwhite economists said they had been discriminated against on the basis of race;
  • 20 percent of economists who identified as non-straight said they had been discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation.

AEA’s leadership released a statement along with the survey results calling the findings “unacceptable.”

“Excluding or marginalizing people based on their gender, race or other personal characteristics is not only deeply unfair to those who are excluded, it damages the field as a whole by limiting the diversity of perspectives and dissuading talented people from becoming economists,” the group said.

AEA noted it had recently taken several steps to address the discrimination and harassment in the profession, including adopting a new professional code of conduct last year to help create “a professional environment with equal opportunity and fair treatment for all economists.”

The group also is looking at taking further actions, including adopting a formal policy on harassment and discrimination to supplement the code of conduct and establish an “ombudsman” to take complaints and provide resources for individuals experiencing harassment.