But anonymously sourced falsehoods can spread like wildfire, harming people’s careers.Silvana Tenreyro, a professor at the London School of Economics and a former chairwoman of the European Economics Association’s women’s committee, told me that “every year a crisis or two arose” from rumors started on the forum, “with the typical target being a female student.”Some economists say they find the discourse on to be a breath of fresh air. Borjas said: “While there is some value in that forum, there is also a great deal that is offensive and disturbing.A pathbreaking new study of online conversations among economists describes and quantifies a workplace culture that appears to amount to outright hostility toward women in parts of the economics profession. Wu, who will start her doctoral studies at Harvard next year, completed the research in an award-winning senior thesis at the University of California, Berkeley.
The 30 words most uniquely associated with discussions of women make for uncomfortable reading.
In order, that list is: hotter, lesbian, bb (internet speak for “baby”), sexism, tits, anal, marrying, feminazi, slut, hot, vagina, boobs, pregnant, pregnancy, cute, marry, levy, gorgeous, horny, crush, beautiful, secretary, dump, shopping, date, nonprofit, intentions, sexy, dated and prostitute.
Professor Card described her as “an extraordinary student.”She is also tenacious, and when I asked Ms.
Wu whether the sexism she documented had led her to reconsider pursuing a career in economics, she said that it had not.
Wu studied is unlikely to be representative of the entire economics profession, although even a vocal minority can be sufficient to create a hostile workplace for female economists.
Janet Currie, a leading empirical economist at Princeton (where Ms.David Card, an eminent economist at Berkeley who was Ms.Wu’s thesis adviser, told me that she had produced “a very disturbing report.”The underrepresentation of women in top university economics departments is already well documented, but it has been difficult to evaluate claims about workplace culture because objectionable conversations rarely occur in the open.Discussions of women are much more likely to involve topics related to personal information (with words like family, married or relationship), physical attributes (words like beautiful, body or fat) or gender-related terms (like gender, sexist or sexual).In an email, David Romer, a leading macroeconomist at Berkeley, summarized the paper as depicting “a cesspool of misogyny.”To be sure, the online forum Ms.Because all posts are anonymous, it is impossible to know whether the authors are men or women, or how representative they are of the broader profession. But it is clearly an active and closely followed forum, particularly among younger members of the field. Wu set up her computer to identify whether the subject of each post is a man or a woman.The simplest version involves looking for references to “she,” “her,” “herself” or “he,” “him,” “his” or “himself.”She then adapted machine-learning techniques to ferret out the terms most uniquely associated with posts about men and about women.Wu moved beyond analyzing specific words to exploring the broad topics under discussion.This part of her analysis reveals that discussions about men are more likely to be confined to topics like economics itself and professional advice (with terms including career, interview or placement).George Borjas, an economics professor at Harvard, wrote on his blog last summer that he found the forum “refreshing.”Professor Borjas said: “There’s still hope for mankind when many of the posts written by a bunch of over-educated young social scientists illustrate a throwing off of the shackles of political correctness and reflect mundane concerns that more normal human beings share: prestige, sex, money, landing a job, sex, professional misconduct, gossip, sex. The problem is I’m not sure exactly where to draw line.”Professor Currie warned Ms. If there’s an optimistic story to be told about the future of economics, Ms. It’s unusual for a senior thesis to have this sort of impact, but she is no ordinary young economist.Wu that writing about these issues was likely to make her the focus of online harassment. At only 22, she also defies the stereotype that women are reluctant mathematicians and coders, as her analysis shows her to be adept at both.