The newly formed Economic Students Association (ESA) held a women in economics panel April 20. The event gave students the chance to hear several peers, professors and alumni speak about their personal experiences with gender disparity in economics, ESA Executive Board member Georgina Garcia-Obledo (sophomore) said.
Garcia-Obledo said the luncheon allowed female economic majors to get to know each other and the department faculty. She added that the goal of the panel was to provide attendees with perspectives of women in the field and an opportunity to discuss how best to close the gender gap. According to the posters used to advertise the event, only 32 percent of the economics doctoral degrees granted in 2012 were to women.
Garcia-Obledo and ESA e-board member Jessica May (junior) both said they were impressed by the diversity of experiences that the six panelists brought to the table.
“It was interesting to hear the different perspectives of those women who are already established in the field and those who are still studying economics,” May said.
The panelists included economics major Julia Ogier (senior), Statistician and Research Analyst for the U.S. Department of Justice Esther Shears ‘14, Associate Research Economist at Precision Health Economics Tiffany Shih and economics professors Diana Ngo and Lesley Chiou.
Chiou, who is also the faculty advisor for the organization, emphasized the importance of hearing experiences from women at different points in their careers.
“It was really enriching to see people from all stages of their careers,” she said. “I think it’s really instructive to see how a career evolves over time.”
Although the event was focused on discussing the role of women in economics, the audience was not strictly limited to female attendees. Christopher Richard Darsono (sophomore), one of the male students who came to the luncheon, said he was impressed by how informative it was.
“It’s eye-opening, because guys aren’t always sensitive to these issues,” Darsono said. “I feel like now, I’ve become more sensitive to them. Now, I will have these ideas in mind when I talk about women in economics.”
In order to bring the experiences of current students into the conversation, ESA members asked Ogier to speak on the panel as well. May said that Ogier was chosen because of her close involvement with the economics department, which included her completion of the economics senior honors thesis. Ogier said that the event included an important discussion on how the economics community could be made more open and welcoming to women.
“It was a very safe and supportive place to express our frustrations as well as our accomplishments,” she said via email. “I think the Economics Students Association is a great resource for everyone in the major, and they have a lot of great plans for coming semesters.”
Founded by Emily Linebarger (junior) this semester, ESA seeks to encourage strong relationships between students, faculty and alumni involved in the economics department, with whom they are closely linked, May said. Although the economics department sponsors the organization, it was its five student e-board members who organized and publicized the event.
Garcia-Obledo and May said the organization also aims to help reduce the stigma associated with economics among the general student population. In the future, they hope to expand their on-campus presence and hold more events that bring students from all majors into the conversation.
“We want to share what [the field of economics] is really about, and how powerful it is as a tool to help the world,” May said. “That’s how we feel about it, and that’s how we want to promote ourselves as a department.”