Diversity and Excellence: Not A Zero Sum Game

As young scholars, we have formulated a new plan for fostering diversity in both identity and scholarly thinking in economics—preconditions for academic rigor.

Although we have all been experiencing and observing discrimination against women and underrepresented groups in our own departments, organizations, and at conferences since we entered the field of economics, it was really in the wake of the #MeToo movement’s start and the debates that followed the publication of Alice Wu’s paper on misogyny on the Economics Job Market Rumors forum (EJMR, a site largely populated by our peers, where misogyny really hit close to home), that we found the allies and inspiration to concretely do something about this issue. As feminists and academic activists have started speaking up publicly and there has been a proliferation of news articles, podcasts (e.g. this one by the St. Louis Fed), and research on the topic (for example the work INET researchers have done), an increasing number of academics are becoming aware of the problem and also looking for ways to contribute to a more open and inclusive economics field.

The fact that we are in academic communities which are generally not accepted by the mainstream of our field—we use alternative theoretical approaches and methodologies—makes our challenge regarding diversity unique. While everyone in our communities faces significant barriers because of theoretical approach, only a subset faces discrimination based on identity; that is, discrimination based on identity is happening within already marginalized academic communities. While we consider tackling both of these forms of discrimination to be essential to improve the state and inclusivity of economics, we have wrestled with a few dilemmas. For example: While including more women or minority voices on academic panels is one way to improve inclusivity and diversity, should we prioritize marginalized groups from the mainstream over white men from the Global North with a more critical approach? Our first response to this dilemma has been that the subject matter, approach, and methodology of the academic panel must always be the priority, although it will be harder to find women and minorities within certain sub-fields (but certainly not impossible!). However, if one can only find white men from the Global North to speak about a certain approach or topic, it is worth considering broadening the question being asked in order to bring in more gendered, decolonial, or critical perspectives into the debate.

Considering diversity in this broad sense—both of approach and identity— allows us to see how marginalization has happened in our field in more comprehensive terms.

This article appears today on the blog of the Institute for New Economic Thinking, as a part of their series “Diversity and Pluralism in Economics: Problems and Solutions”. Read the full article here.

Time to Diversify and Decolonise Economics – A Radical New Initiative

We are launching a far-reaching and radical initiative to address the problems of discrimination and Euro-centrism in economics. We are a network of economists that aim to promote inclusiveness in the field, both in terms of academic content and in its institutional structures. We are working to promote a field free of discrimination, including sexism, racism, and discrimination based on approach and geography. This involves promoting inclusive practices at sites that determine what legitimate knowledge is, such as conferences, workshops, journals, editorial boards, boards of economics organisations, syllabi, economics departments, and classrooms.

We take a holistic approach, as our mission involves three related, yet distinct,  goals. These are:

  1. More equal representation in terms of identity,
  2. More openness in terms of theoretical and methodological approach, and
  3. Decolonising economics by tackling the historically produced Euro-centrism in our field and its claim to neutrality and universality.

The holistic approach is what distinguishes D-Econ from existing initiatives promoting diversity and pluralism in economics. We strongly believe that any approach that focuses exclusively on only one of these three elements runs the risk of being inadequate, as it ignores other key aspects of marginalisation in the field. For example, diversity in identity is not enough to reverse the biases in the field if the dominance of the current paradigm is not also challenged, and challenging the dominant paradigm is not enough to ensure decolonisation.

Read our full mission statement here.