Srihita Bongu and Mijal Bucay are two of our best and brightest among the undergraduate majors. Srihita is Co-President of the Economics Club, and Mijal Bucay is the captain of our Federal Reserve inter-University Challenge team. Both are strong performers in the classroom, and both have taken on a new role recently as undergraduate learning assistants—advanced undergraduates who provide tutoring and mentoring to students in the introductory and core economics courses.
When they looked around the Economics classroom in their upper-level courses, they noticed something surprising: they were outnumbered! Why, they asked, were there so few women majoring in Economics?
On the steps of Gardner Hall: (l-r) Srihita Bongu, Professor Kalina Staub, Mijal Bucay
The Economics major has always had more men than women, but the divergence now is striking. In our introductory classes of a typical academic year, women make up about half of those enrolled. However, when we look at those graduating with a major in Economics, we find that women are only one-third of the total. This is not specific to UNC: in a Journal of Economic Literature article in Fall 2016, Amanda Bayer and Cecilia Rouse report that nationwide fewer than 30 percent of undergraduate Economics majors are women.
Mijal and Srihita talked with their classmates in Economics, both male and female, and came up with their proposal— “Women in Economics.” This is a club with a series of events on campus to introduce women interested in Economics as a major to women who have built successful careers based on their Economics training. As faculty adviser they made an inspired choice—Kalina Staub. Kalina is an instructor in her second year on campus with an interest in gender differences in economics choices and outcomes. The three together planned their first event—a “coffee break” with six of the women on the UNC Economics faculty that drew over 40 undergraduate women for an hour-long discussion. They are also inviting alumnae from our Advisory Group to visit the club.
There are many women to admire in business and economics: government officials like Janet Yellen, business leaders like Meg Whitman, and state leaders like Janet Cowell, state treasurer of North Carolina. The next generation of leaders is probably in this club!
Thanks to Srihita, Mijal and Professor Staub for their mentoring.
For more updates about Women in Economics Club, check our website econ.unc.edu/news.