How bad is harassment and discrimination faced by female economists?

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A survey conducted by the American Economic Association reveals worrisome figures regarding discrimination and harassment in this field

How far do harassment and discrimination faced by women economists go?

In recent years, the struggle for women's rights has permeated the industries that were led by men only years ago and, although there is much talk lately on this issue, many are unaware of how far the problem can really go.

Leer en español: ¿Hasta dónde llegan el acoso y la discriminación que enfrentan las mujeres economistas?

In the field of economics, the statistics of harassment and discrimination continue to be worrisome. A study by the American Economic Association revealed that nearly 100 economist women have been sexually assaulted by a partner or a colleague, almost 200 have been victims of an abuse attempt and hundreds reported being harassed or improperly touched, about 85 women reported having been physically attacked by another economist, in many cases by a direct supervisor, and one in five women said they had been subjected to some type of non-consensual sexual situation.

These figures were the result of a survey in which more than 9,000 members and former members of the association participated, both men and women, and which was announced last month.

The survey reveals the huge labor gap between men and women that still persists in the field. Half of the women who responded to the survey said they had been treated unfairly because of their sex, compared to 3% of men who said they had experienced the same situation. Almost half of the women reported having avoided speaking at a conference or seminar to avoid possible harassment or "disrespectful treatment", and seven out of 10 women said they felt that the work of their male colleagues was taken more seriously than theirs.

Generalized discrimination

In addition to that, the survey revealed that racial and minority discrimination also occurs in the countryside. Among the black economists surveyed, only 14% agreed with the statement: "people of my race / ethnicity are respected within the field."

Likewise, homosexual, lesbian, and other economists who do not identify as heterosexual, reported more discrimination and disrespect in the field than heterosexual economists. Of these groups, only 25% agreed with the statement: "people of my sexual orientation are respected within the field."

'Bad for the economy'

Ben S. Bernanke, a former Federal Reserve chairman who now heads the economic association, said he was "worried and disturbed" by what the survey revealed.

"It's bad for the economy," Bernanke said. "It is very unfair for those who suffer this discrimination, because the economy is a fascinating, interesting and lucrative field, and we do not want to exclude people for any reason, it seems that we are dissuading talented people from entering the field."

The numbers make clear the scope of the problems in the profession, but above all they are a call to implement measures that ensure the job well-being of all economists regardless of their sex, race or sexual orientation, since it is no secret that the field is still dominated by white men, even though there are women who have advanced and positioned themselves as key players.

Also read: Fortune 500 companies: they are their female CEOs

In order to address the problem, the committee adopted a new policy on harassment and discrimination to complement a code of conduct that was adopted last year. Members must certify their compliance if they wish to occupy leadership positions or win prizes.

The new code includes measures such as the appointment of an ombudsman, who will be responsible for investigating reported cases, as well as professional sanctions that could affect the career of those who engage in harassment, abuse or discrimination.


LatinAmerican Post | María Fernanda Barinas

Translated from "¿Hasta dónde llegan el acoso y la discriminación que enfrentan las mujeres economistas?"

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