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New Women in Economics club seeks to build community, reduce gender gap in the field

| Friday, March 12, 2021

Newly approved by Student Activities Office (SAO) this semester, Notre Dame’s Women in Economics club aims to empower women to pursue economics in their academic and professional careers. 

The idea for the club took root two years ago after co-founders and co-presidents Kelly Mitchell and Ella Saenger, realized how few women were in their economics classes and started to develop ideas to increase confidence and community among their fellow female students. 

Although there was already an economics club at the time, it focused mostly on events and talks. Saenger said as a first-year, she sought “a tighter-knit community, where girls could ask questions about harder classes, or go talk about current events that relate to economics and get more helpful advice [from upperclasswomen].” 

Saenger and Mitchell hope Women in Economics will fill that void for current underclasswomen in the field. 

“Ever since creating the club, I’ve enjoyed [economics] more,” Mitchell said, “Just because I’ve built such a big community around economics, and it’s made classes and collaborating a lot more interesting, as well as it has caused me to dive into more economic issues and research.”

Even before the club became SAO-approved, Women in Economics was working tirelessly to achieve its goals. Last year, they hosted lunches that introduced female students to female faculty members in order to establish personal connections, learn more about the department’s course offerings and learn about the different areas of economic research.

Mitchell and Saenger both cited the importance of introducing female students to research that they wouldn’t otherwise have known about and especially research with a social impact.

The club also invited alumni who are working in the field to be guest speakers and share a variety of experiences with students who are considering the myriad career paths that are available to economics graduates. Several alumni have reached out to tell Mitchell and Saenger that they would have really appreciated a club like Women in Economics when they were studying at Notre Dame. 

Despite pandemic-induced limitations, Women in Economics has been able to continue hosting events and expanding its membership. They organize lunch meetings and talks with guest speakers on a regular basis, albeit over Zoom. Their GroupMe began last fall with only eight members and now has over 150, many of whom use it to ask questions about classes and create study groups.

“We just want to get girls to engage in a community and engage with the subject of economics with peers, people who have graduated in industry and faculty,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell and Saenger both named Esther Duflo as an inspiration for them as women in economics due to her status as a trailblazer and her focus on the social impact of economics. Duflo won the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences in 2019 for her team’s research on using economics to alleviate poverty. She is the youngest-ever recipient of the prize and only the second woman. 

Saenger also named professors Chloe Gibbs and Kristen Cornelson as personal influences, having taken their classes that focused on the intersection of economics and societal issues like education and inequality. 

Anyone who is interested in participating in Women in Economics can register for the email list or contact Kelly Mitchell ([email protected]) or Ella Saenger ([email protected]). 

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