Diversifying the field of economics has been a career passion for Professor of Economics Amanda Bayer.
This past fall in Washington D.C., that passion earned her a place in front of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, as Bayer organized the inaugural National Summit on Diversity in the Economics Profession.
The summit, which Bayer co-organized with Janice Shack-Marquez of the Federal Reserve Board, brought together presidents and research directors of the Federal Reserve Banks and chairs of economics departments from around the country to open a profession-wide dialogue about diversity. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen delivered the opening remarks. In addition to organizing the summit, Bayer delivered a major presentation at the conference, showing rigorous data on how policy views and economic analyses vary depending on the identity and experiences of the individuals producing them.
"It was a landmark event for the economics profession," says Bayer, who joined the College community in 1992. "We had a productive day of learning and conversation, and attendees are undertaking projects and initiatives based on research presented that day."
According to Bayer, her interest in expanding diversity in the economics profession grew in the classroom.
"I teach a course on Race, Ethnicity, and Gender in Economics and each year I get to talk about these really important topics with our amazing students who want to figure out the source of inequality in our society and in the economy," says Bayer. "Each year, I thought more and more deeply and broadly about the issues and decided that the way I could have the greatest impact would be to influence who ultimately becomes economists."
Following up on this desire, Bayer created the Div.E.Q. (Diversifying Economic Quality) wiki in 2011, an open-source wiki which suggests simple steps that professors can take to make sure that their own actions aren't dissuading women and minority students from becoming economics majors. She believes that the success of the wiki is what drew the Federal Reserve's attention.
In January 2014, Bayer was invited to present her research at the annual meetings of the American Economic Association. It was there that Bayer met Shack-Marquez, deputy director in the Division of Research and Statistics at the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. Their informal conversation at the annual meeting led to meetings and invited talks at the Federal Reserve and eventually to the idea of a national summit on diversity in economics.
"I reached out to Amanda as I was trying to develop ideas for how the Board of Governors could improve its performance on the diversity front," says Shack-Marquez. "Amanda's tireless efforts resulted in the opening of a fantastic new profession-wide dialogue about diversity."
Bayer thinks the summit has potentially substantial consequences for economic knowledge and policy making.
"From research, we know that women economists have, on average, different views on policy than men, even though they received the same Ph.D. education from the same institutions," she says. "They have quite different views on the labor market and international trade, for instance. These results along with other evidence suggest that increasing diversity in the economics profession would improve economic knowledge and policies."
In the future, Bayer plans to develop and lead several initiatives that emerged from the conference, while continuing to collaborate with the Federal Reserve.