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Fighting misogyny in economics: Alice Wu, take a bow

By Kathleen Maclay

Alice Wu
Alice Wu

A photo caption accompanying a story on the American Economic Association’s website, about addressing gender bias, noted that the organization’s recently concluded annual meeting “featured several papers on women in economics.”

Yes, it was news.

Two women economists share duties as vice president of the organization, and Berkeley economist Hilary Hoynes of the Goldman School of Public Policy is on its board of directors.

But at this year’s annual conference, gender equity was clearly a central focus, as several women economists presented papers and led key panel discussions.

One participant was Alice Wu, who shared the paper that set much of the field on fire last August after the New York Times wrote about it. In her honors thesis, written when Wu was a UC Berkeley undergraduate, she found and detailed rampant gender stereotyping and misogyny on the popular and anonymous online Economics Jobs Market Rumors (EJMR) forum. Last Friday, she appeared on an all-female panel at the AEA conference that publicly examined gender issues in economics.

That evening, the association announced it will establish an alternative to EJMR, as well as draft a code of conduct for economists. The alternative had been pushed before the conference by two economists, including UC Berkeley economics professor Michael Reich and Institute for Women’s Policy Research President Heidi Hartmann. They circulated a petition calling on the AEA to set up its own job site, and have it moderated to eliminate sexist posts; more than 1,000 economists signed it.

The Times again took notice, with a Jan. 10 story headlined: “Wielding Data, Women Force a Reckoning Over Bias in the Economics Field.”

Tyler Cowen, an economist at George Mason University and author of the Marginal Revolution blog , retweeted the story along with the declaration: “Let’s face the truth: Alice Wu was the most important economist of 2017.”

And here at Berkeley, economic historian and professor Martha Olney beamed about Wu’s work and impact from her Twitter perch:

Prof. Olney ( @MarthaOlney )
Alice Wu, @UCBerkeley Economics Class of ‘17. Undergrads can rock the world. She did.…

Read the New York Times coverage of the AEA meeting and new developments in gender issues within the economics profession