Economics has historically been a male-dominated field in the United States. Students at Boston University, however, started a club last Spring to address the disparities in the field and create opportunities for underrepresented students.
BU Undergraduate Women in Economics provides a space in the male-dominated field of economics for students to showcase their work and support each other, UWE president and founding member Erika Lee said. Lee is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences’ BA/MA program for economics.
The club aims to connect female students interested in economics with not only their peers, but also with professors, alumni and doctoral students in the field. They have organized guest speakers, alumni panels and professional development workshops.
BU UWE also publishes a blog, which encourages students to participate in conversations about economics. Lee said that for some, participating in male-dominated classrooms is difficult.
“This blog basically serves the purpose of allowing women in the field who are perfectly capable of expressing themselves to express themselves in a way that they feel comfortable, that they feel safe, on a website where they are surrounded by other pieces that other women have written,” Lee said.
The posts range from book reviews to women sharing their own research, with the overall purpose of the blog aiming to “collect female work in economics at our school,” BU UWE Vice President of Research Isabel Mullens said.
“It can maybe inspire other girls in the department,” Mullens, another founding member, said. “It gives them a better understanding that there are other girls out there doing awesome work in econ.”
Mullens, a junior in CAS, said the club helped her gain the confidence to apply for the economics and math BA/MA program.
“Female students often might not feel as comfortable if they’re in a very male-dominated environment, and as such, they may be less likely to to pursue a degree or a career in the field,” Mullens said.
Lee said she got the idea for the club when she was the only female student in a graduate-level macroeconomics class that she took last year.
“The higher up you go, master’s, PhD and then finally getting assistant professorship or even tenure … you’ll kind of see [representation] get narrower and narrower,” Lee said.
Associate Professor Shulamit Kahn, the faculty advisor for BU UWE, said it is important for women to see themselves represented in economics, not only in their peers but professors as well.
“There’s actually research that shows that just thinking that you belong there and you do well and there are other people like you will keep [you] in the major, and also make [you] happy,” Kahn said.
Mullens said representation is important for mentorship too.
“Even though all the econ professors in the department are really kind and supportive, I think that having female role models, as a woman in the subject, is really important,” said Mullens.
Lee said the club has led her to have meaningful connections in the economics department.
“The main goal of this is not just to create a safe space for women but also a brave one that empowers us together to start conversations with the greater community,” Lee said. “That is the core of our club’s mission.”