PHILADELPHIA—The American Economic Association plans to offer information about job hiring and create its own moderated forum for discussions about the economics profession in response to concerns about sexism on an industry website.
The decisions to set up the sites and take steps toward establishing a code of conduct, announced Friday evening during the group’s annual conference in Philadelphia, came after more than 1,000 economists signed a petition last year asking the AEA to supplant Economics Job Market Rumors, a website featuring anonymous comments about economics hiring and other topics. A research paper by University of California, Berkeley student Alice Wu found the site often featured crude or sexist language about women; the site’s administrator said the study relied on old data and the forum has taken action to address sexism.
Women and minorities are underrepresented in the field of economics, a longstanding imbalance that some researchers suggest is harmful for creation of economic policy.The AEA said in a statement last October that it “strongly condemns misogyny, racism, homophobia, antisemitism and other behaviors that harm our profession” and was setting up a committee “charged with evaluating various aspects of professional conduct, including those which stifle diversity in economics.” The committee was chaired by Harvard University economist John Campbell, who told members gathered in Philadelphia Friday that a draft code of conduct will be circulated within weeks for discussion, with the goal of formally adopting it this spring. The code will, among other things, call for civil and respectful dialogue in all settings, he said. Mr. Campbell said the panel also will circulate a report proposing actions the AEA can take to improve diversity in its leadership and end harassment, among other things. In the coming months, the group said it will create a “job wiki” on the AEA’s website containing information provided by economics departments and other employers about key dates in the hiring process and, in some cases, job candidates’ names. A moderated discussion forum also is planned; no decision has been made yet about whether to allow anonymous posting. Vanderbilt University economist Peter Rousseau, the AEA’s secretary-treasurer, said the goal is to have both sites “ready to be useful” by this fall, when the next annual academic hiring cycle will begin. It’s “time for the association to take a stand about offensive behavior, uncivil behavior, in the economics profession,” he said. Mr. Rousseau said the new wiki and forum will be separate from the AEA’s existing Job Openings for Economists service, which features job listings and streamlines the application process for academic and other positions. The association’s announcements were met with applause at Friday’s meeting. “We’re very happy that they stepped forward,” said University of California, Santa Barbara economist Shelly Lundberg, who chairs the AEA’s Committee on the Status of Women in the Economics Profession. She said it’s “an open question” whether the new sites will fully supplant Economics Job Market Rumors. In any case, she said, “this demonstrates the acceptance of this set of issues as something that a professional association considers within their sphere.” Women account for less than a third of economics majors at U.S. colleges, a longstanding imbalance, and people of color likewise are underrepresented in the field. “I respectfully defer to others who have more closely studied the mix of possible reasons for why progress has not been greater, but I will defer to no one in expressing my view that the status quo is not good enough,” Federal Reserve governor Lael Brainard said last summer. RELATED Why Aren’t More Women and Minorities Studying Economics? (Dec. 1, 2017) To Avoid Sexism on Job-Posting Site, Economists Petition to Start Their Own (Oct. 26, 2017) Fed’s Brainard Calls for More Diversity in Economics Profession (July 28, 2017)