Four female Southeast Missouri State University students joined student representatives from 22 universities and institutions across the United States at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland’s Women in Economics Symposium Feb. 27 in Cleveland, Ohio.
The symposium encouraged participants to pursue a career in economics by discussing the successful career paths of diverse economics professionals and raising awareness of diversity and inclusion in the profession.
The students, who are members of Southeast’s Women in Economics organization, explored career paths and job opportunities open to economic majors, said Dr. Natallia Gray, associate professor of healthcare management and faculty advisor to the Southeast’s Women in Economics organization.
“The students were able to meet inspirational women in the profession and gain knowledge about what role women play in the profession,” Gray said. “They were also able to participate in conversations surrounding diversity issues in the workplace.”
Southeast student attendees were Alexandra Meyer of Chicago, Illinois, a double major in political science and economics; Erika Bone of Jacksonville, Illinois, a political science major with an economics minor; Sibonginkosi Mathe of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, a double major in business economics; and Tanatswa Musunda of Harare, Zimbabwe, a finance major with computer science and business analytics minors.
Featured keynote speakers included Dr. Julianne Malveaux, founder and thought leader with the Economic Education Institute, and Dr. Lisa Cook, director of the American Economic Association’s Summer Program and associate professor of economics and international relations at Michigan State University.
Cook’s career path in the economics industry as well as in public service as a senior economist for U.S. President Barack Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers was interesting and inspirational, Bone said.
“This was a great way for me to learn about how I could combine both subjects I am studying while at Southeast into a career in which I would be able to use both skill sets I’ve learned,” Bone said.
Cook’s motivating keynote presentation made an impact on the Southeast group that attended.
“Being a woman of color myself and breaking the mold in the economics field, while listening to her story on how she did just that drilled into me the importance of true feminine ability,” Musunda said. “Women by themselves are powerful, but women together are impactful. Working hard, working smart and working closely with my team of equally powerful women is what’s going to get us far – and this is my newly developed mantra.”
The symposium also included panels discussions about what students can do with a degree in economics, the path to a doctorate, and navigating spaces in the work environment.
“The advice I benefitted from was about identifying a good mentor,” Mathe said. “The panel discussed how an individual can have many mentors for different things and that the mentor should act a guide. A mentor does not have to be like you. It is crucial that we continue to build a strong relationship with our mentors by updating them about changes that occur in our lives so they are able to encourage and support our growth and improvements.”
Bone agreed, adding, “There was also an emphasis on younger women reaching out to those who are already in the profession to get their advice and guidance on different career opportunities and continuing education. The main takeaway I got is to not count yourself out before you even try. Women especially will count themselves out before even trying, which is something we need to stop doing. We will never get the things we want if we never ask for them to begin with.”