« Repeat after me: people cannot and do not "spend" money | Main | Canada: One Hundred and Forty-Seven Years of Economic Growth »


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

I haven't ever gone to the lunch, but not out of comfort issues - I think I'd be fine with that. I go for the same reason I don't ever go to the Purvis lunch, a preference to find interesting local food and/or drink over mass lunch fare.

Jim - so that suggests you wouldn't be happy with including the cost of lunch in the conference registration fee and having a mass lunch for everyone?


Although it is hard for me to grasp, I am no doubt one of the senior members of CWEN, and my PhD training and early years in the profession were quite different than those of more recent vintages. Your theory is that "...it is, on balance, easier for people to network with others of the same gender"; I wonder what is included in "on balance". If I think about a world with gender equity in each field within the discipline, I might agree - although I am still not sure. If I think about networking by gender across fields, I am dubious: if I compare my comfort at attempting to network at IAFFE conferences with that in male-dominated sessions at other conferences, I think I have been more comfortable at the latter. But I truly do not know how much of that is early training and adaptation to a distinctly male dominated environment!

Frances, does your hypothesis depend on there being no specific advantage to women connecting with other women in the field as distinct from men connecting with women, or women connecting with men? That may be true in terms of networking for the attainment of professional advantage or progress - if a connection is to help me get recognition for my work, then the thing that is important about the connection is unlikely to be gender.

But what if the connection is not for professional advantage, but is rather for professional support? It may be that economist academics don't have issues with sexual harassment or gender discrimination, but the profession I started in (as a lawyer) certainly still continues to do so. And if that is the case, networking with other women academics may provide young women academics with the opportunity to meet other women who can give them advice on how to successfully navigate those issues.

I have no advice but it's unfortunate that people wouldn't just show up to hear a women speak regardless of networking opportunities. If Francis has showed us anything with her posts here at WCI is that female economists bring unique and important perspectives to topics that male economists often over look.

Out of curiosity, what were the lunch topics covered?

Actually, I was at the Purvis Lunch this year at the Vancouver CEA meetings and it seemed more sparsely attended than usual.

I think rhere is still enough value for the cwen to operate as a gender oriented network for a few more years, This is still a male dominated profession with very few opportunities for gender networking or mentoring. Even if the gender mix of graduates is getting more balance, there is still not enough senior females in small departments. CWEN meetings provide a nice opportunity for junior females to network. That said, i think the prominent speaker probably attracts equally male and females interested in the topic of the talk, which expands the scope of the networking not only to females but to those interested in the issue.

@Alice's comment: "It may be that economist academics don't have issues with sexual harassment or gender discrimination...". Unfortunately, that is not the case, although I believe there are fewer people who would excuse someone on the grounds of "that's just him" than there were when I was a junior academic (at least, I hope that is true in general, and not just in my home dept!). I can certainly provide examples from recent years in my own dept, on both situations.

The CEAs offer many networking opportunities. I get together with what is ostensibly the boys for drinks, dinner, rides to and from various place, the coffee breaks, and the like. I find it hard to find the women, especially at the breaks, because the room is always so crowded and I am 5 foot 3 (and that is being generous). The only people I can find at the breaks are the Mike Veall's of the world and no one can ever find me. The lunch gives me a chance to go into a room and actually see my female colleagues and have a nice chat with a table filled with them. I don't see it as crowding out opportunities at all.

I don't see anything 'wrong' with having a lunch that is predominantly women in the field. If men feel intimidated walking into a room that is predominantly the other gender, to that I say welcome to my world. I attend many conference where the number of women in attendance can be counted on two hands, yet I buck up and walk into that room.

I also like that the lunch is not a mentoring event, because the last thing I need is yet another person telling me how to 'excel' in the discipline. I have carved out a very different and unique path that makes me happy, yet many economists looking at my CV would consider me a 'failure.'

That said, I find the CWEN organized panels to be great mentoring events, that attract men and women. This year's discussion on publishing and parenting was great fun. Last year I was on the panel that talked about alternative career paths and the room was packed with 'young' men and women economists. These discussion sessions provide mentoring that can't be achieved in other environments.

What is missing now though is any discussion about CWEN activities and elections and the like. These used to happen at the tail end of the lunch. Now I have no idea when they happen. I have been asked a few times to join the CWEN executive. I have always said 'no', because it is not clear to me what CWEN does, what its mandate is, and what its goals are, other than organize a lunch and a few sessions at the CEAs. That is, I don't see what is in it for me.

So, I really don't see what is 'broken' about the CWEN lunch, but then again I don't know what objectives CWEN necessarily wants to achieve from the lunch or what larger role CWEN wants to play in the discipline. I should also note that we often talk about the fact that women sometimes get left out of the let's go have drinks invitation. If you want more networking between senior economists (incl male) and junior economists, why not a drink event, where the obligation of the senior invitees (enticed by drink tickets?!) is to work the room and actually chat informally (not a grilling about their dissertation, where they are publishing, defending their position on Y--experiences I have had and hate with a passion) with the junior economists.

Ian - here is a list of the last few CWEN speakers. These are serious people who are definitely worth listening to:

CWEN Luncheon Speaker: Catherine Eckel (Texas A&M University), "Gender in Experimental Games"
CWEN Luncheon Speaker: Rebecca Blank (United States Under Secretary of Commerce for Economic Affairs)
CWEN Luncheon Speaker: Sandra Black (University of Texas at Austin), "The Other Side of the Glass Ceiling: The Effect of Women at the Top"
CWEN Luncheon Speaker: Siwan Anderson (University of British Columbia), Legal Origins and HIV/AIDS

A full list can be found by digging through the file I've just uploaded - see the end of the post.

Livio - two things. This year the number of government attendees was down, and the government folks are more likely register in advance and sign up for the lunches. Also I suspect those who, like Jim, place a high value on quality food and drink, are less likely to sign up for the Purvis lunch in a place like Vancouver, where there are a super-abundance of excellent places to eat and drink within a block or two of the conference venue. Perhaps also the topic wasn't quite such a popular one?

B.t.w., for anyone who hasn't seen it, Alice wrote a great post about her experiences as a junior lawyer here: http://ablawg.ca/2014/06/13/yesallwomennotallmen-sexual-harassment-in-the-legal-profession/

@WoolleyLaw - "But what if the connection is not for professional advantage, but is rather for professional support?"

Two responses: first, at the risk of channelling Nick, don't men need professional support too? Also, gender isn't the only factor that puts people at risk of being marginalized - not being comfortable socializing in English, not being comfortable socializing over drinks, being too short or too short-sighted to spot people at conference events (as per Lindsay's comment), not being raised in an environment where one was taught how which knife to use and how to hold one's knife and fork properly - all of these things are obstacles. The most popular events CWEN puts on are the professional support events - like the one Lindsay mentioned in her post and this "How to publish" event written up here https://economics.ca/newsflash/pdf/HowtoPublish-1.pdf. They typically attract a really good mix of both female and male economists, and generate a lot of discussion.

Second, do you really think it's necessary to have a specifically female event to meet other women? Do similar events exist in Law? If not, why do you think that is?

Linda "I think I have been more comfortable at the latter" - perhaps that's why I'm so comfortable socializing with you ;-)

Ana - prompted by the feedback from you and others, I actually went and dug up a list of the high profile speakers (Purvis lunch speaker, Innis lecturer, presidential address, state of the art and other sponsored lectures) for the past 10 years. Typically the program will have 5 state of the art lectures, 4 of which are given by men. The overwhelming majority of other speakers are generally male also - I haven't counted, but excluding the CWEN lunch it wouldn't be far off 4/5 male. So without the CWEN lunch speaker, there would be significantly fewer high profile female speakers on the program.

Lindsay - CWEN can be whatever you want it to be - join it and be the change you want to see in the world!

" If you want more networking between senior economists (incl male) and junior economists, why not a drink event, where the obligation of the senior invitees (enticed by drink tickets?!) is to work the room and actually chat informally (not a grilling about their dissertation, where they are publishing, defending their position on Y--experiences I have had and hate with a passion) with the junior economists."

Have you had any experience with something like that? I wonder if it would work as well as the panel sessions do - because those are, as you say, popular and well attended. My worry is that seniors may be nervous and socially awkward and be really lousy at chatting informally with juniors they don't know.

I am probably channeling my experiences with attending boutique conference in Europe. These always have great social activities, which helps with networking. The sessions always end a reasonable hour (unlike the CEAs), you freshen up, then everyone meets at the venue. There we are allocated into groups, that are mixed in gender, background (always at least one local), seniority and a bar hopping/dinner/reception we a go. The group allocation means that there is no one isolated in the corner, it forces you to talk to people you might not otherwise, and the grouping itself always provides a starter conversation (the name of the group, the allocation, etc). And knowing this is going to happen, makes walking into the room that much easier. The conversation is not about work or research, but rather who we are, drinking stories, awkward conference stories, and the like. But then again, I am a big believer that booze (not to excess) is a great social lubricant.

Now perhaps it is because I spent time in Europe growing up that I find the European approach to things much more appealing.

Lindsay -

There are boutique conferences kind of like that in Canada, too, but it's not always easy to get on the mailing lists. Here's a list of the various Canadian study groups: http://economics.ca/en/affiliated.php. Some of the links are outdated, but once you know what you're looking for, it's not hard to find the info. These often have good conferences.

I guess this is the kind of thing that mentors are useful for!

Frances, to answer your second question first, there are many organizations for women in law in Canada: http://www.lsuc.on.ca/with.aspx?id=2147486612

There are also many discussion papers and conferences (e.g., here: http://www.canadianlawyermag.com/legalfeeds/tag/law-firm-management.html) about why women leave private practice in droves and what, if anything, can be done about it. It creates a market problem when every Cdn. law school graduates at least 50% women and private law firms cannot retain them for more than a few years. There are many standard reasons given for that - the demands of time, the unpredictability of lawyer hours in private practice - but I think part of the reasons relate to the kind of culture I talk about in that blog post.

On your first point, two comments. First, that other groups face discrimination doesn't make it unnecessary to address one that does. And Linda's comment confirms what I would have suspected, which is that economics is not immune to some of the issues that the legal profession faces, and there is a legitimate need for women to have some place where they can find support. I would guess that women in some respects have less barriers - e.g., socio-economic/cultural disadvantage is probably a more significant issue at hiring than gender is. But some of those other barriers may require different approaches than the creation of community which it seems to me the CWEA lunch is about. For example, when I am looking at law school admissions I always talk to some of the file readers about the extent to which people from more privileged backgrounds can game the system, and that it's important not to put undue emphasis on soft measures like personal statements for that reason. But, again, doing the one thing ought not to preclude doing the other if it serves a real need.

Second, not every kind of disadvantage is cognizable as discriminatory (that's the lawyer's phrasing) or worthy of efforts to ameliorate it - that I am just an annoying ass doesn't mean that I am entitled to accommodation. It just means that I'm an annoying ass.


Not a CEA affiliated study group, but there's also the Canadian Health Economists' Study Group http://www.chesg-geces.ca/

Alice (Woolleylaw)

"and there is a legitimate need for women to have some place where they can find support"

Agree absolutely. Two issues: first, women aren't the only ones who need support, and exclusion is not a good thing. Second, how are events that support people who need support best set up? At the American Economics Association meetings, CSWEP sets up a coffee room, where anyone can drop by and pick up a cup of coffee and a muffin - which is absolutely fantastic because otherwise it can be hard to find a coffee at these meetings. Also the AEA meetings are so overwhelming, it's wonderful to have a quiet place and a non-threatening environment to socialize in. CSWEP also has an evening reception - but there are dozens of different evening receptions, so there's no feeling of this-event-or-nothing.

But there is a serious shortage of prime slots on the CEA program. What if the CEA set up another official lunch event that ran at the same time as the CWEN lunch - would that be a terrible thing to do? If so, why?

Frances, can one express this in economist terms: e.g., group as a percentage of attendees at CEA relative to extent of disadvantage/discrimination as measured against beneficial effect of lunch.

My guess is that the the issue is less with the first measure (women as percentage of attendees and the extent of disadvantage/discrimination) then it is with the second (i.e., the beneficial effect of lunch).

Scarce resources is always a concern. But I think what I'm saying - and I'm an outsider to this issue, obviously enough - is that I would be very cautious before I decided that something that CEA does that may benefit a group that merits that sort of support (i.e., a relatively high percentage of economists with relatively significant disadvantage/discrimination) is not worth bothering with.

Woolley: " is that I would be very cautious before I decided that something that CEA does that may benefit a group that merits that sort of support (i.e., a relatively high percentage of economists with relatively significant disadvantage/discrimination) is not worth bothering with."

Fair enough. The numbers, b.t.w., of female academics in econ departments are 10.2/354 full professors (36 people), 19.4 of 324 associates (63 people) and 37% of 243 assistants (90 people). (From the CAUT almanac)

"Do similar events exist in Law? If not, why do you think that is?"

There are generally a number of similar initiatives for woman (and other groups) in law. Apart from the sorts of organiations Alice mentioned, many of the big law firms (with varying degrees of sincerity) host or organize similar events. For example, my firm typically hosts a number of events each year targeted at our female clients contacts (corporate counsel, officers/directors, etc.) aimed at combining CLE activities for them (much valued by in-house counsel), with networking/mentoring opportunities for our woman lawyers. To be sure, these are marketing opportunities for the firm (well targetted ones given the increasing number of corporate counsel who are woman), but no less valuable for that.

"The numbers, b.t.w., of female academics in econ departments are 10.2/354 full professors (36 people), 19.4 of 324 associates (63 people) and 37% of 243 assistants (90 people). (From the CAUT almanac)"

Interesting, I'd be curious what the average year of hire at each level was.

I follow @franceswooley on twitter, hence how I was led to this blog post.

As someone who was a young academic in England, but has now been in the government and private sector in Canada, let me offer three thoughts for consideration:

1/ A high profile speaker is essential to the credibility of the event, to confer benefit on the attendees, and to attract all genders to the event. Minimize the opportunity costs. Sounds as though this is not an issue given the list of past speakers provided. (Foodies - well, that is another issue! Have it off site in the best restaurant?)

2/ While explicitly an event to promote female excellence and networking, identifying and having several men, in particular senior men, act as champions for the event can be helpful. The most progress I have seen in one large organization I worked for on gender issues was when there was both a very senior female and male champion. I have also been known to call in favours with my leading colleagues - both male and female - to get them at mentoring and female leadership events. Every time I have done this the men leave saying "This was a lot more fun than I'd thought it would be." It helps when the event is professionally focussed on a specific skill, challenge or issue.

3/ The value of the event is often in the informal discussions that occur around the formal topic itself. The chance to impart strategies for handing contact with the office while on parental leave, sharing tips on balancing life and work and informal mentoring (both senior to junior and reverse mentoring) is important. Feedback forms such as via "survey monkey" that can easily be submitted by email will inform you about what participants found the most useful and how to keep improving the event.

Hope this was helpful. Best - Ailish Campbell @Ailish_Campbell

Ailish - thanks for those thoughts, and for joining the conversation.

The CEA is an organization that follows very simple rules. The CWEN lunch always has a female speaker because its labelled CAnadian Women Economists Network lunch. If we changed it to, say, the Nakamura Lunch or the Ostry Lunch (to honour prominent female economists) then it would be easier to get both men and women to come, but it might be harder to make sure that in 10 years time the speaker was still female. Also the rule seems to be that one has to be a beloved figure who dies an untimely death to have a lunch named after you (cf. Doug Purvis), and I'd rather that not happen to anyone I'm fond of.

I agree with you that champions matter. Part of the issue at the CEA meetings is that the number of seniors who might be good professional contacts is fairly small relative to the number of juniors - once one achieves a certain status within the profession, it's more fun to go to the European-style conferences Lindsay describes. The association also hosts an annual employment exchange, with a reception that's supposed to be a networking event, but which is sometimes somewhat fraught for all concerned. Perhaps if we got some non-academic employers to come it might be less so.

I too feel more comfortable with focusing events around issues rather than identities.

Thanks a lot for the thoughtful comments, Francis. I am a bit late in the comment thread as I was away with no Internet for a while, but I hope I can still engage in the discussion.

As the incoming CWEN president and the person who is in charge of organizing the luncheon for the 2015 meetings, I have to respectfully disagree with the core of your argument(s). CWEN is at its heart an interest group, dedicated to mentoring & promoting women economists in academia and elsewhere. We derive our raison d'etre from the fact that women in our profession still face unique challenges when pursuing their careers. Our mission implies that although we should by no means be oblivious to the fact that some male economists also deserve/need mentoring (e.g at a junior stage of their career), their fate is, frankly, none of our concern (as a side remark, my impression is that worrying too much about others and not promoting one's own interest as a result is classic female mistake that many of us have made repeatedly).

To speak directly to your point about the cost of male colleagues who feel intimidated and may miss out on the opportunity of networking with women - until my male colleagues start asking themselves about how I feel every day when I enter a seminar room/conference venue or attend a committee meeting, I don't think that I should be concerned about their feelings at the CWEN luncheon. Any discomfort on their part constitutes an external cost I don't have to internalize. On the women's side, I disagree with your point that a large female audience raises the opportunity cost of women attending the luncheon, and would argue the opposite is true, as the expected gains from networking rise exponentially with the people in the network.

Of course, you could ask more generally whether having our interests represented by a dedicated organization is warranted in the first place. This question hinges on whether or not one believes that we have achieved gender equity in our profession, and my sense is that, steady progress notwithstanding, we most decidedly have not: both data and anecdotal evidence suggest that the gender gap in economics is alive and well.

Now, as I see it, the specific objective of the CWEN luncheon with its high-profile female speaker in this context is to a) provide a role model for young female economists to aspire to b) show that gender-related topics can be addressed by state-of-the art research and can get significant recognition in the profession, while at the same time c) make the event sufficiently attractive to a male audience to entice them to come, learn something new about gender, and meet more female economists. Incidentally, I am happy to report that for our 2015 speaker, I was able to secure Raquel Fernandez (NYU) who fits the profile perfectly. So do we want to be inclusive? Absolutely. This is why the luncheon is open to everyone. Should be change the name of the luncheon to make it less "threatening" to our male colleagues? Absolutely not. It is our luncheon. We use it to promote our cause *and* ourselves. Identity ceases to matter only if you are a member of the privileged majority.

(Full disclosure: I am about the same height as Lindsay and I personally like the CWEN luncheon for the same reason she does - it's easy to hook up with people I haven't seen in a while, sit around a table and chat.)

@Anke: I am definitely looking forward to hearing Raquel Fernandez!
On other matters... while part of me thinks this a bit ridiculous, I agree with Anke and Lindsay on the height issue. Having spent much of my academic career (physically) looking up to colleagues who are much taller than I am, the ability to actually see people on the other side of a crowded room is refreshing. Another clear marker I see of the increase in the number of women at ECON conferences is that there are now frequently line-ups in the women's washrooms - unheard of in earlier days, except at IAFFE meetings. I still perceive large gender gaps in some fields, however: labour is more balanced, family is sometimes female dominated, theory is male dominated...there are still sessions where I have been the only female in the room. Our dept seems to have a large number of female faculty these days...there are 7 of us! out of 24 full time regular faculty members. IN some cases there are overlaps in fields, but not in all. Is the latter necessary? No. Is it helpful? Yes, I think so. CWEN lunches provide a possibility to meet other women in your field, and build a network complementary to that obtained through field conferences.

A way to build inclusiveness? CWEN Lunch: a networking opportunity for the vertically challenged.

In all seriousness, the lunch offers a great opportunity to hear about excellent research by top rated female economists. In all the ones I have been to, the speaker has been very engaging on top of talking about an interesting research area. It also offers great networking, especially for us in fields that are male dominated.

That said, my comments about boutique conferences was more about ideas for more networking events hosted by CWEN. In Calgary, Abigail hosted a fun drink night at a local bar. I was offering comments more around ways to stimulate networking outside of the lunch and finding a way to include our male colleagues and address the issue of people wanting instead to sample local food and watering holes.

Lindsay: " In Calgary, Abigail hosted a fun drink night at a local bar."

That's a really good idea.

Anke: " CWEN is at its heart an interest group"

This gets right to the heart of the issue. Once it's agreed that the CWEN lunch is a lunch organized by and for a specific interest group, other questions arise: why this interest group? How does the CEA respond if other interest groups ask for their own lunch? Does the CEA attempt to accommodate all interest groups, or only some interest groups? If only some, what is the test?

The CWEN lunch is subsidized to a significant extent by the CEA. That the lunch confers benefits to members of CWEN is great, but I think there's a case to be made that the Association should carefully target subsidies. I don't know if there's a student registration fee for the CWEN lunch, but the $40 price tag may be a barrier for those who most need the networking opportunities. I guess it's easy for me - having achieved a certain amount of comfort in the profession - to pull up the ladder after me and say "everyone's on their own now." But it would be interesting to look at the breakdown (students, faculty, government, comp registrations) of those coming to the CWEN lunch. Are people who need that step on the ladder coming to the lunch?

Another thought: People have said that it's important to the CWEN lunch to be open to everyone, but have also said that the thing they like most about it is that it's a mostly female lunch. It seems that there's a bit of a contradiction here.

B.t.w. I will take this post down in a week or two, as I don't particularly want it to be the top hit whenever someone googles CWEN lunch. And it's done what I needed it to do in terms of helping me think these issues through.

Maybe 'unpublish' instead of an outright 'delete'?

I found this interesting, but then again, I've never given CWEN much thought. It always seemed like something that had nothing to do with me. I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing.

Hi all,
Greetings from Malaysia. Sorry I'm late to the discussion. I have to say that I find it very exciting to hear people really batting around ideas on the possible roles of CWEN. This is a really interesting discussion.
I have very fond memories of my first CWEN lunch where I met some of you as a young grad student. I have to say that I have always found it to be a fun and productive networking event - the structure of a lunch helps the socially awkward among us like me. Although drinks sound very good too.
I also think that although we are now seeing more and more women at the CEA meetings. It isn't clear to me that our work is "done" in promoting women and supporting them within the profession. In particular, I find the extremely low (and with a very flat gradient) representation of women in the special lecture series of the CEA meetings quite surprising and frankly a bit disturbing. I'm not sure what can account for this.
I do think that women still face some challenges that men to not in the profession.
That said, I am happy that the lunch and all CWEN events are inclusive. And when women do start to dominate the profession I agree that we might have to rethink whether our events make men feel slightly uncomfortable or excluded :)

I'll confess as soon as I pushed post I regretted being so flippant in such a forum.
I think it is really great that so many men attend these lunches and sessions. I think with great speakers and interesting, relevant content, they will keep coming. However I really believe that it shouldn't be one of CWENs primary concerns to make men comfortable.

Joanne: " I find the extremely low (and with a very flat gradient) representation of women in the special lecture series of the CEA meetings quite surprising and frankly a bit disturbing."

I was interested but am too cynical to have been very surprised. One worry of events like the CWEN lunch - and organizations like CWEN - is that it lets everyone else off the hook - the president-elect/program chair feels that as long as there's one female name on the list of state of the art lectures, their job is done.

Also the state of the art lectures typically end up as viewpoints in the CJE, so the views of the CJE editor are important. Some, like Robin Boadway, were very active in mentoring and promoting women - Robin had quite a few female associate editors, e.g.

If you could have anyone you wanted, who would you have as a female state of the art lecturer? Innis or Purvis lecturer?

I don't have a particular wish list. But there are so many possible women.

I agree the "exactly" one state of the art is a very noticeable pattern. Although I doubt that getting rid of the CWEN lunch would increase this number. I think that needs more direct lobbying of the organizer. That said, I have no problem with the number is female speakers bouncing around based on who is available, topic preferences, etc.

Paul Seabright, at Toulouse, (with coauthors) is looking at gender and networks - some of his papers are here http://paulseabright.com/?page_id=548. He is reporting significant differences in the way men and women use networking - men are more likely to network more broadly, women have fewer but "deeper" (my word) links. I haven't read the papers yet, but saw him give a plenary talk at a conference in Feb. Whether we use the CWEN lunch, or some other venue to bring women with various field interests together, I think we have not yet reached the state of providing something.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Search this site

  • Google

Blog powered by Typepad