A stunning number of professional economists—nearly 1,100—signed a petition late last year urging the American Economic Association (AEA) to address pervasive misogyny in the field.
The petition urges the AEA to create a jobs wiki site that would display more information about the job search process, thereby supplanting the notoriously misogynistic EJMR (Economics Job Market Rumors) anonymous site. Crowd-sourcing and scraping department web pages to obtain economics job market data are already prevalent activities— but currently only available on EJMR or partially by personal effort. Unlike EJMR, an AEA-sanctioned site would be fact-based and should be moderated to exclude the misogynistic statements that appear on EJMR.
Heidi Hartmann, President of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, and Michael Reich, Professor of Economics and Chair of the Center on Wage and Employment Dynamics at the University of California at Berkeley, initiated the petition drive. Reich and Hartmann recruited 21 additional original signers, including Nobel Laureate Angus Deaton of Princeton, MacArthur Fellow Nancy Folbre of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Dani Rodrik of Harvard, and Adriana Kugler of Georgetown. The International Association for Feminist Economics (IAFFE), the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, the Economic Policy Institute, and others circulated the petition and recruited the additional 1,000+ signatures.
“For a field that prides itself on being able to grapple with the most complex social and economic issues, gender equality has been a distinct blind spot. The AEA, representing the largest number of economists, has a duty to take on misogyny in our ranks,” said Dr. Hartmann, also a MacArthur Fellow.
Following a heads-up about the petition from Hartmann and Reich, the AEA Executive Committee released a statement on October 20 strongly condemning “misogyny, racism, homophobia, antisemitism and other behaviors that harm our profession” and agreeing to explore “the possibility of creating a website/message board designed to provide additional information and transparency to the job market for new Ph.D.s” and to survey economics departments “to assess what information about their search processes might be shared.”
“We’re pleased that the AEA has taken our concerns seriously and is working to address the pervasive misogyny in our ranks,” Professor Reich said. “Much work remains to be done. We look forward to hearing how the AEA plans to move forward.”
Reich and Hartmann began the petition to address the non-response by the AEA to the public airing of the misogyny on the EJMR website, an independently run wiki. While the hateful comments on the website were known to users, the broader profession and public were alerted by an August New York Times column by Justin Wolfers, highlighting research by then undergraduate Alice Wuthat demonstrated the different ways in which men and women were described by users on the wiki.
“We hope no one will ever again have to consult a misogynistic source in order to obtain current job information,” said Wesleyan University Provost and Economics Professor Joyce Jacobsen, past president of IAFFE and an original signer of the petition. “The AEA’s existing job listing does not provide the up-to date information on interviews and placements that candidates and recruiters clearly want and need in this new information age.”
The Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) is a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization that conducts and communicates research to inspire public dialogue, shape policy, and improve the lives and opportunities of women of diverse backgrounds, circumstances, and experiences.