Money Matters: Black Women in Economics

Every time I think about inspiration and admiration, the first thing that comes to my mind is my mom: a single mother who worked full-time as a professor to provide for our small family comprised of her and I. She’s been a true role model in my life. However, when I think about someone at a professional level as an economist, there is no economist woman that I can think of. All the theories and models I have been taught were made by men, white men. Women, especially women of color, are under-represented in economics.  

Therefore, I decided to search for women in economics, especially women of color, who may be a source of inspiration and admiration not just for me but for future and current women economists. I found some great Black women economists such as Dania Francis, a professor at the University of Massachusetts; Jhacova Williams, an economist for the Economic Policy Institute’s Program on Race, Ethnicity, and the Economy; Kristen Broady, the dean of the College of Business and Barron Hilton Endowed Professor at Dillard University, among others.

However, it was the story of Lisa. D Cook, which captured my attention: 

Lisa suffered an attack at a young age (two or three years old) due to her skin color, which left her with a permanent scar. This experience made her interested in research on racial justice, sexism, and gender.  As a professor at Michigan State, she has published papers on different topics including the impact of lynchings in slowing overall economic activity and how having a distinctively Black name positively affects longevity, among others. Even though these topics may not be what traditional economists research, Cook has always remained loyal to her beliefs and interests.

Her career path has not been easy. She has been discouraged by her colleagues affirming that those research topics may derail her from tenure and some journals have rejected her work because they felt her research had no broader relevance. Nevertheless, none of these situations have discouraged or stopped her from continuing to do her work.  Her hard work has resulted in recognition from the top institutions in her field. In 2019, she was elected to the Executive Committee of the American Economic Association.  

Hopefully, we will be able to see more women of color in economics in the future. It will disrupt the paradigm of the small number of women, especially women of color in the field. By doing so, we will be able to change the economics area but also the type of research that is made and its impact on society.  

I look forward to meeting you back here next month with new economic topics to be discussed. If you have questions for me about economics, send an email to contributors@loveblackgirls.org and I’ll answer it!  

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