Women of Color in Economics and Sociology Report More Unequal Treatment and Harassment than Men of Color

Press Release


August 6, 2019

IWPR Contact: Jennifer Clark | 202-785-5100 | clark@iwpr.org

Women of Color in Economics and Sociology Report More Unequal Treatment and Harassment than Men of Color

First survey of Black women and Latinas in economics and sociology finds gender disparities in negative work experiences 

Washington, DC—As the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association convenes at the end of this week, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) published survey findings of Black and Latinx sociologists and economists, finding that women of color are more likely to report negative experiences—including unequal treatment in recruitment, harassment, and inadequate resources—than men of color in these academic fields.

This briefing paper presents results from a survey of nearly 200 faculty economists and sociologists from underrepresented minority backgrounds. Previous efforts to document or address inequalities in these fields have focused on either gender or race. This survey is the first to use an intersectional framework to explore the specific experiences of women (and men) of color in these fields.

Findings from the survey show that women of color are more likely to report:

  • Unequal treatment and harassment: Compared with their male colleagues, women of color are more than twice as likely to report unequal treatment in recruitment processes and report verbal abuse or ridicule.
  • Lack of support: More than half (55 percent) of women of color in these fields report a lack of resources from their departments or support from their colleagues.
  • Poor climate: Nearly 4 in 10 (39 percent) women of color report a negative departmental climate and 29 percent report a lack of legitimacy or affirmation for their work.

Sociologist and paper co-author Roberta Spalter-Roth, Ph.D., commented on the findings:

“We rely on the fields of sociology and economics to help us make sense of our society and our economy. These fields need more scholars of color, especially women, to carry out their function. These findings are a wake-up call to departments and disciplinary associations, like the American Sociological Association and the American Economic Association, that addressing race or gender in silos leaves many women scholars of color without necessary support.”

Economist and IWPR President Heidi Hartmann, Ph.D., also commented:

“Economics has had high-profile attention on its recent efforts to grapple with the field’s rampant misogyny in the wake of the #MeToo movement. These findings deepen our understanding of these issues through the experiences of women of color and remind us that most disciplines must prioritize diversity and inclusion.

The Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization that conducts and communicates research to inspire public dialogue, shape policy, and improve the lives and opportunities of women of diverse backgrounds, circumstances, and experiences. IWPR also works in collaboration with the Program on Gender Analysis in Economics at American University.