The Department of Economics is proud to sponsor SWIE and WIE, two student groups aimed at fostering a culture of supporting women students and other underrepresented demographics.
The Society of Women in Economics (SWIE)—an undergraduate group with 50-70 active students—is a community that provides both professional and social opportunities for women students to connect with other women in their field. SWIE’s objective has been not only to serve as a resource for undergraduate women navigating the economics major, but also improve representation in their field and demonstrate how other women in various industries capitalize their economics degrees.
The graduate student group Women in Economics (WIE) is comprised of roughly 20 active students and is likewise committed to establishing space for, and elevating the voices of, women and other marginalized groups. WIE advocates and provides resources for students to promote institutional advancement that would improve the graduate school experience for students of all backgrounds. WIE is also focused on increasing representation and diversity among incoming PhD cohorts, in addition to within the field of economics as a whole.
Both groups coordinate professional, academic, and social events throughout the academic year to support their constituents.
SWIE’s board organizes around 14 events per year so members can network and develop mentor relationships. They arrange guest lecturers, professional events including resume workshops, and host recruiting events. SWIE also plans several social events such as group yoga. By providing a variety of events, SWIE hopes to attract those with a wide range of interests and needs. Their events are also open to all, says group President Kaitlin McWilliams: “Our main audience is women undergrad Economics majors, but anyone that supports our mission of empowering women in Economics is welcome!”
Each semester, WIE convenes a graduate student “town hall” to regroup and ensure their goals and activities are aligned with student needs, as well as minimize duplication of effort between graduate student groups. Their other events throughout the year are centered on fostering a social and supportive departmental atmosphere, for example by arranging mixers with students and faculty and offering a breakfast during finals week to help reduce stress. Recently, WIE has also started sponsoring mentoring lunches between visiting speakers and small groups of students to provide a relatively unstructured space to network and build relationships with those outside the department.
Though they work independent of one another, both SWIE and WIE recognize how vital it is for women in Economics to see representation of themselves in a field so predominantly composed of men.
With women making only about 30% of economics majors at U-M, and the rate of women entering the field stagnant (compared to other disciplines), SWIE and WIE are both striving to change things. They recognize how vital it is for women in Economics to see representation of themselves in a field so predominantly composed of men, and share a vision of economics that is both enriched and advanced by new questions and tools derived from researchers and scholars from a diversity of backgrounds, experiences, and voices. Through empowering the women here at U-M, SWIE and WIE hope to be instrumental in shaping future generations of women economists who will continue to pave a path for others to succeed in the future.