In October 2018, I became a founding member of The Sadie Collective, an organization which aims to help solve the pipeline to pathway problem surrounding the severe under representation of Black women in the economics profession. Presently, just 2% of bachelors degrees in economics are offered to Black women.
At the PhD level, the proportion less than 0.5 % and dropping despite advances in STEM subjects overall according to a recent report by the American Economics Association’s Committee on the Status of Minority Groups in the Economics Profession.
This is problematic for many reasons. It not only perpetuates the myth that women and minorities are incapable of tackling the quantitative social sciences but stifles the voices of necessary perspectives in a field that commands so much influence in our day to day lives. Working at the intersection of economics and public policy opens doors to the rooms that influence policy which so often negatively influences women and people of color. From public health concerns such as the availability of birth control to choices surrounding who our economy works for and how to support them. The homogeneity in the economics profession doesn’t only hurt underrepresented groups, but the economy at large when it fails to benefit from the variety of experiences and expertise that diverse researchers and policy makers bring. So with that problem in mind, the Collective works to empower, support, and inform Black women in economics and related fields such as finance, data science, political science, and public policy.
Last year, one month into my studies at SIPA, I joined the organization and began planning for the first conference which took place in February 2019. Mentioned by Congresswoman Maxine Waters, NPR’s Planet Money, and Forbes Magazine the event surpassed our expectations of public interest and also cemented the potential of our organization to thrive. However, as Chief Financial Officer, I had to manage fundraising and bookkeeping and keeping spending in check between operations and other department’s concerns. I also had to prepare to write a financial report toward the end… all during midterms, finals, problem sets and the like. This year, our conference was double the size, hosted by Urban Institute, three days long, and had much more support form established grant-making organizations (making the need for attention to detail in financial management even important for grant report purposes). We also had some hard hitting guest speakers such as Sarah Rosen Wartell, the President of Urban Institute, and Janet Yellen, the former and first female Chair of the Federal Reserve, economist at The Brookings Institution, and President of the American Economics Association.
Planning these events and co-running the organization as a whole with the co-founders and CEO and COO (Anna Gifty Opoku-Agyeman and Fanta Traore) and the rest of the team would take up five hours of my week on a slow time but 10-18 ( and maybe even more during the height of conference planning season) on average throughout the year. Plus I had school responsibilities from taking many quantitatively demanding courses, acting as the Committee Coordinator of RISE: Working Group on Race, Inequality, Solidarity and Economics (a campus group) for the 2019-2020 academic year, my Program Assistant post at Admissions ( which is why I’m writing this…. Hi!!), my former post as a member of the Faculty and Curricular Subcommittee of the Diversity Committee, my EPD Workshop Capstone…THE LIST GOES ON.
It is not easy to do it and I gave up on a lot of opportunities to party with my cohort in favor and balancing self-care and my responsibilities. However, it is not impossible. I’ve learned first hand that, with discipline, you can manage anything that is thrown at you. Your obligations may not be entrepreneurial. You may want to manage a job to earn some more money while at SIPA to lessen the cost of going to grad school, volunteer, create a student group on campus, or any thing that may take time away from your academic obligations. However, the premise is the same. You need to:
- Think about how you use your time wisely, make a plan, and stick to it. Use google calendar, make to-do lists, and ensure you do everything you can to hold yourself accountable.
- Prioritize! You can do everything but not at the same time. I chose to prioritize these curricular, extra-curricular, and professional obligations and my own self-care. Did I go to the gym as often as I wanted to? No. But I when I could I went and tried to make it count. I also appreciated time being present with friends more because I knew that I was registering a opportunity cost for more “productive time” that I wanted to ensure the time was worth it. I can always spend my post-graduation time crushing it at the gym but the personal and professional relationships I want to foster can expire. That was my mental math, but you do yours.
- Speak up! Most professors are really understanding. If you are submerged with professional work and need a few extra days for a paper or problem set, speak up and respectfully explain your situation. Most times, professors are human and understand because they’ve been there before.
- Maintain yourself. Running on empty isn’t cute. Ensure that even at your high season of work, you have a light at the end of the tunnel where you can turn off, decompress, and practice self care.
- Say no! I said no to a lot of things and even though I felt a twinge of FOMO when all was said and done, in the end, I knew it was what I needed and that my full, present, self would be in attendance if I had gone.
At the end of the day, the stressed and haggard moments are just grad school anyway, so you might as well make them work for you. Being a part of The Sadie Collective and many other organizations and posts have, at the end of the day, only provided me with more enrichment that will take me into my post-graduate school life with more confidence to work, mentor, and transform the world around me.