Welcome Letter

Dear reader,

 

On behalf of the entire board, I would like to welcome you to The Women in Economics (WiE) Initiative. I am excited for you to join the discussion on gender inclusion in the economics profession. I invite you to make the most out of the services and opportunities that we offer.

The motivation to found an initiative on gender inclusion in the field of economics came to me after my first year of professional experience in economic consulting. Despite the excitement and challenges that my role presented, the existence of a small number of women in leading positions quickly became a constant concern. This reflection clashed with my strong motivation to build a bright career in economic consulting as a lack of access to female mentors began to impair on my ability to best access opportunities, making advancing my career feel ten times more difficult.

To my surprise, I found that even though stories on gender imbalance feature often in the media, many practitioners remain sceptic in relation to the need to further promote gender inclusion in economics. In my discussions, I found this to be due to poor awareness relating to the everyday challenges that individuals face purely based on gender. I am concerned that the currently available space for discussion on the sources of gender imbalances in economics does not accommodate for the change in discourse that the field needs to tackle this issue.

I find the gender problem in economics to be at odds with the nature of the discipline. Economics is a field that promotes an evidence-driven understanding of the world with a strong taste for allocative efficiency. It seems that we have been dedicating our energy to optimising input allocation within fields of economic activity, without questioning the optimality of the labour allocation across fields. Thus, we take the gender distribution of labour endowments across professions as given, rather than as the result of possible market imperfections, which impedes the emergence of optimum labourer-job matching based on skills.

We founded WiE in the summer of 2019 with the vision to advance gender equality in the economics profession. Through our actions, we aim to encourage equal opportunity and a better gender balance across the academia, the private (industry) and the public sectors. We plan to achieve this through engaging all genders in an open discussion based on empirical evidence, which will support the development of a shared understanding relating to the challenges that individuals of different genders face.

We focus primarily on gender equality in the field of economics. We recognise that gender is a social construct and we distance our definition from its sexual identification component. Thus, we narrow our scope down to social perceptions relating to the concept of men and women participating in the workforce within the broader field of economics. We also view gender inclusion as a promising candidate to generate positive spill overs towards a better working environment for all and to foster a general strive for inclusion.

We limit our scope to the field of economics for two reasons. First, this is where our experience lies. Thus making it a natural starting point for me, and the other founding members, to support an environment of better gender inclusion. That is not to say that we will not aim to establish collaboration with initiatives working on gender imbalances outside economics; in fact, we are keen to explore opportunities for the development of potential synergies through such partnerships. Second, economics is a natural candidate for a critical assessment of gender equality; it is a field that promotes a data driven understanding of the world with a strong taste for allocative efficiency.

WiE is an initiative that intends to serve the society as a collaborative knowledge platform. By joining WiE, you connect with a network of economic practitioners and students eager to share experiences, research and ideas as well as request mentorship. Through our newsletter and social media activity, we will highlight contributions that women make in economics and disseminate our research (including the Women in Economics Index, interviews and insights) or relevant research conducted by other organisations. Moreover, we will provide information about upcoming events, workshops and calls for volunteering.

At this point, I would like to encourage you to share your experiences relating to gender-based challenges in the workplace by filling out the WiE survey that we will be launching shortly. Understanding the challenges you face will help us better design our actions and communications in the future, as well as raise awareness about current gender-related challenges in the profession.

We are excited to have you on board, welcome to the discussion.

Sincerely yours,

 

Virginia Sondergeld.

Chair of the Board, The Women in Economics Initiative

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