How #MeToo power dynamics affect economists

How #MeToo power dynamics affect economists


JUDY WOODRUFF: Next: The MeToo movement hits
academia, specifically the economics department. Gender discrimination was a hot topic at the
annual meeting of the American Economics Association over the weekend in Philadelphia. And Paul Solman was there, as part of his
weekly segment, Making Sense. SETH MEYERS, Host: Good evening, ladies and
remaining gentlemen. (LAUGHTER) PAUL SOLMAN: At the Golden Globe Awards last
Sunday, the sexual harassment jokes flew fast and furious, befitting the industry that launched
the MeToo movement. SETH MEYERS: For the male nominees in the
room tonight, this is the first time in three months it won’t be terrifying to hear your
name read out loud. (LAUGHTER) PAUL SOLMAN: But sexual discrimination was
also called out. NATALIE PORTMAN, Actress: And here are the
all-male nominees. PAUL SOLMAN: As was sexual age discrimination. SETH MEYERS: The Golden Globes turned 75 this
year. JESSICA CHASTAIN, Actress: But the actress
that plays its wife is still only 32. (LAUGHTER) PAUL SOLMAN: But what, you might be wondering,
has the Golden Globes to do with economics? Well, sex and age discrimination has become
a popular subject of research. And it just so happens that 30-something,
as economist Joanna Lahey told me two years ago, is pretty much when age discrimination
begins against all women, not just those in Tinseltown. JOANNA LAHEY, Economist: It starts at age
35. PAUL SOLMAN: Really? JOANNA LAHEY: Yes. It’s a pretty steady process. PAUL SOLMAN: And economist Teresa Ghilarducci
relayed another disturbing fact: Women’s earnings peak at age 45. TERESA GHILARDUCCI, New School for Social
Research: From 45 to 55, wages decrease by 9 percent, from 55 to 65, another 9 percent. So that age of peaking is a lot younger than
we ever thought. PAUL SOLMAN: We caught up with Ghilarducci
in Philadelphia this week at the annual convening of the world’s economists, where the role
of women in economics was seriously trending, a panel on the topic even making headlines. TERESA GHILARDUCCI: The low status of women
in the labor market after the age of 50 may be quite related to the fact that we don’t
have many women economists. And, in fact, other women reinforce that by
not asking the age. I’m 60. Let me just shout out to all the people who
might be watching this that the only way we’re going to eliminate age discrimination is if
we shout out our age. I’m 60, I’m vital, and I’m so glad I have
tenure, because I know the realities, Paul, that I wouldn’t shout out my age if I didn’t
have a secure job. PAUL SOLMAN: Really? You mean you know you wouldn’t? TERESA GHILARDUCCI: Because I know I wouldn’t. It would be very hard for me to get interviewed
in the finance profession, for instance. And I feel it’s because older women have sort
of lost the other kind of attribute that women will use on the job, whether it’s unconscious
or conscious. And that’s the attribute that we might somehow
boost the sexual the egos of our male bosses. PAUL SOLMAN: And that ego is — the male ego
is becoming more fragile as men age. Right? TERESA GHILARDUCCI: They have always been
fragile. (LAUGHTER) PAUL SOLMAN: Well, but I’m just saying — it’s
not as an excuse, but it’s a fact that, as a man ages, he worries more than ever, OK,
about being attractive himself. TERESA GHILARDUCCI: But what’s happening at
work isn’t about sex or attractiveness. It’s really about power. So, if men are feeling more fragile in their
privileged opportunity, then they are going to subordinate people who are threatening
their opportunity. A lot more people are competing and a lot
more people have the skills that you once as a man had hoarded. PAUL SOLMAN: And more women are graduating
from college and even from graduate school now. TERESA GHILARDUCCI: Yes, so the fragility
is basically in holding onto their privileged opportunity. And so sexual harassment, sexual sounds fun
and harassment sounds petty. What’s happening is this kind of micro and
macro aggression. And you, any human, shows aggression to someone
who is threatening them. PAUL SOLMAN: A recent paper that’s gotten
a lot of attention in the economics world actually highlighted the sexualization of
female economists, who hold 30 percent of the Ph.D.s, but only 15 percent of the professorships. TERESA GHILARDUCCI: An undergraduate at Berkeley
wrote a paper where she analyzed the kinds of words and descriptions of young women on
the job market compared to young men on the job market. PAUL SOLMAN: Alice Wu, now a grad student
at Harvard, mined more than a million posts from a message board where the economics community
gossips anonymously about job applicants. TERESA GHILARDUCCI: How did their visits on
campus go, how did their interviews go, what did the senior professors say to so and so? You know, it’s a gossip board for people trying
to enter a profession. Men who were looking for jobs as economists
were described with words like empirical, data, monetary, fiscal, words that are associated
with our profession. Women who were looking for jobs who had Ph.D.s
in economics were described as hot or a bitch or somehow sexualized. PAUL SOLMAN: Here’s the list of the top 30
words that correlated most frequently with women interviewing for jobs in the economics
profession: breast, kissed, whore, sexy. Down through number 30, none had anything
to do with economics. TERESA GHILARDUCCI: Clearly dismissive, disgusting,
and meant to annihilate and weaken. PAUL SOLMAN: When I read that list of words,
I was shocked, startled. I just didn’t think that, in economics, men
were looking at women that way. TERESA GHILARDUCCI: I mean, a lot of sexual
harassment, which that is, is not about sex. Saying that a female economist who is competing
for an assistant professor is hot is not flattering. PAUL SOLMAN: Right. TERESA GHILARDUCCI: It’s actually aggression. It’s putting her in her place as a sexual
object, not as a equal competitor. PAUL SOLMAN: I have interviewed you for a
decade at least a number of times. As between us, is there an imbalance? I mean, I know that I’m in a sort of power
position by being an interviewer. I have always tried to work against that and
try to make the interviewee comfortable. But is there a difference in terms of me being
a white male and older? TERESA GHILARDUCCI: Not at all. We’re not competing for the same job. And you, like 99 percent of men, treat me
with respect and give me the authority I’m due because of my knowledge and my profession. It’s just that when you take the small number
of men who express their threat with hostility towards women, and you multiply it over and
over again, and the bystanding men get confused about what they’re looking at, then you get
an imbalance of power and an expression of hostility to women. You know exactly when it’s just joking and
when it’s not. Don’t be confused. You’re not confused. You’re not confused about your own motivations
and you’re not confused about what the other men are doing. Just be brave to call it when it’s aggression. PAUL SOLMAN: This is economics correspondent
Paul Solman, reporting for the “PBS NewsHour” from Philadelphia.

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