…And More Change

In my most recent post, I summarized the recent “professional climate” report by the American Economics Association (AEA). This report surveyed the association’s members about sexism, racism, and other actions that were reflecting badly on economics on a profession and on the AEA itself.

There were many fascinating outcomes in the report, as detailed in the earlier post. But there’s one more set of results that I also want to mention. The report’s authors were curious as to how the “professional climate” they uncovered compared to the “climate” in other academic associations. So they identified similar surveys that had recently been conducted by similar organizations, and compared the results of those surveys to theirs.

The comparisons are presented in the report with the warning that the survey questions were not identical in every survey, that some of the guidelines for the surveys were different (e.g. the length of thetime period that the respondents were asked to report on), and that the characteristics of the respondents (such as gender and age distribution) were not consistent across the surveys.

However, even at a broad general level, the comparisons are very interesting. Here’s a quick summary, presented by the type of question asked and the association(s) that asked it.

  Unfair treatment in promotions Discrimination based on being a parent Ideas or opinions disrespected or overlooked
Society of Women Engineers Women: 38%

People of colour: 47%

Men: 20%

Women: 45%

Women: 28%

People of colour: 33%

American Economic Association Women: 27%

Non-white respondents: 22%

Men: 4%

Women: 22%

Women: 23%

Non-white respondents: 24%


  Experienced sexual teasing, jokes, or remarks Experienced pressure to go on dates Experienced pressure for sexual favours
American Anthropological Association Men: 15%

Women: 31%

Men: 3%

Women: 7%

Men: 1%

Women: 2%

American Economic Association Men: 13%

Women: 42%

Men: 3%

Women: 22%

Men: 1%

Women: 7%


  Avoided a work-related event because they felt unsafe or unwelcome
American Astronomical Association Men: 3%

Women: 13%

American Economic Association Men: 18%

Women: 46%


  Avoided a work-related social event because they felt unsafe or unwelcome
Linguistic Association of America Social events in work department: 14.5%

Conference/workshop dinner: 6.7%

Other conference/workshop social events: 7.5%

American Economic Association Men: 18%

Women: 43%


  Felt socially excluded or disrespected at an association meeting
American Political Science Association Men: 22%

Women: 42%

American Historical Association Overall: 28%
American Economic Association Men: 40%

Women: 66%

These results are discouraging, especially the number of respondents who felt disrespected or excluded at social or professional events. But it’s also heartening that at least some academic associations are taking these issues seriously enough to try to understand the extent of the problems. The real proof of how serious they are, of course, will be what they do next to address the problemts they have identified.

It’s also been announced within the past week that the Canadian Women Economists Committee (CWEC), a standing committee of the Canadian Economic Association, is conducting a “professional climate” survey. This survey is similar to the AEA’s, but focuses specifically on the economics profession in Canada.  I’m not aware of other acaademic associations in Canada that have undertaken this kind of study – so I’m looking forward to the CWEC report, and I hope that it might inspire other Canadian academic associations to do the same.


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