Community//

Where in the world are black women economists?

They are everywhere working simply as economists.

The New York Times published, Economics, Dominated by White Men, Is Roiled by Black Lives MatterThe article discussed a recent controversial tweet:

University of Chicago economist Harald Uhlig, after he criticized the Black Lives Matter organization on Twitter and equated its members with “flat earthers” over their embrace of calls to defund police departments. . . Black Americans are vastly underrepresented among economics students and professors, a wide range of data have shown.

Furthermore, the article cites black women economists as a rare breed pointing to one Professor in Michigan as prominent. In 2020, I find this troubling. Forty years ago the assessment was a need to increase the number of black economists. Foundations such as Ford and others supported graduate economic programs at Howard University (HU) and other HBCUs. Dr. Joseph Houchins (RIP), a labor economist and faculty member at Howard University made it his personal mission to recruit black women economists from undergraduate programs nationally. There were women such as Carol Canteen and Gloria Lessington, graduates of Talladega College; Carol retired as an economist from the Federal Communications Commission and Gloria retired as an economist from the Labor Department.

When I graduated from HU we were a class of 2; my colleague was Dr. Constance Solan. Dr. Solan had a productive career in government and teaching before succumbing to an illness years later. Some black women economists from that era are now retired such as Doris Epson Newsom who had a long career at the Department of Agriculture. Among black women economists is Dr. Debbie Lindsey who is a Professor in Howard’s School of Business. There are others such as Hazel Robinson who is a candidate for the Howard University alumni association president. Connie Hamilton started at the Urban Institute before transitioning to government service; you may never see her name, but she has worked on international trade agreements for decades.

Black women economists are here – in quiet spaces. You may not see us because our numbers are indeed small, but we have fought vigorously against race, class, and sex discrimination in our own domains in business, government, academics, and international organizations globally. How to find us? We work in the vineyards, finding our voice, making our contributions simply as economists.

Discussion on The Future of Work & Entrepreneurship for the Underserved – Windsor, United Kingdom November 2019

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