Ashley Hinnant and Dana Paige are both senior Economics majors. They attended the 5th Annual Sadie Conference, which was held in Washington, D.C. from February 16-18, 2023.
Ashley reflects on her experience below:
“My experience with the Sadie Collective conference greatly informed me of the ways we can extend economic principles in nearly every challenge and question we as a society face. Although we have several types of economic classes, I have never taken one that extends into topics such as racism, flooding, pollution, etc., very extensively. It was incredibly intriguing to see black researchers and experts talk about the ways they use economics to talk about and explore the issues they see within their specific communities, black communities, and the overarching community as a whole. I was particularly interested in Dr. Jhacova Williams’ incredible work in quantifying racism and examining its effects on the job market. Working to quantify the things that have such a large impact on everyone’s lives so that we can make change using concrete numbers is revolutionary. I have learned from the conference that I can use economics in ways that appeal to my interest and can create change in the specific ways I and other people like me want to see change.”
Dana reflects on her experience in an interview with Department Chair, Dr. Donna Gilleskie, below:
How did the experience inform or enhance your understanding/application of tools and concepts that you are learning in the Economics major?
This experience opened my eyes to the variety of fields to which economics principles and theories can be applied, outside of finance, government and business. It was amazing to see economists use economic principles as instruments to solve real world problems, namely those pertaining to social justice. Having taken a multitude of elective courses in economics, it had already been made clear to me that economics is applicable to all aspects of life. However, seeing women – specifically black women – discuss how they use their academic training to apply seemingly straightforward and simple economic principles to solve important issues was truly amazing to witness. To be reminded that I’ve chosen to invest my time at UNC into learning tools and concepts that will positively shape my outlook on the world and everyday choices I make, and provide me opportunities in positions where both African Americans and women are underrepresented, made me feel even more confident in my choice to major in economics.
Did the experience spark any research or project ideas/interests that you have not previously considered or hadn’t considered as “economics”?
I wouldn’t say there was anything that I hadn’t considered “economics,” but I was very interested in the way that everyone spoke about the pandemic and the way that it shifted the economics lens, specifically within the labor market and technological production. One woman, Dr. Kristen Broady, actually presented her research about the effects of the pandemic on the labor market, specifically which jobs were at risk of being automated, or replaced, by technology. Following a major shift to remote work and an increased value of limited human interaction almost everywhere, where interaction proved to be unnecessary amid fears of spreading coronavirus, there was a global realization that technology can replace a great deal of jobs. Ironically, the jobs most at risk of automation are those which are also dominated by minorities, hence a larger social justice issue coming into play at the hands of the pandemic. While I was already aware that technological innovation and productivity is a large part of economic growth and development, Dr. Broady’s research prompted me to think of the potential adverse effects of technological advancements, especially its effects on marginalized groups. This made me realize that a major part of economics is not only thinking about how the models and principles that focus on productivity encourage economic growth, but also having to address social implications as a result of the shifts in these models as well.
Has anything you learned from the conference changed the way you will approach your continued economics training?
Hearing from women who work in so many different fields and industries, such as the fashion industry, with the US Trade Representative, the Federal Reserve, in research and even entrepreneurs, enlightened me on the abundance of career opportunities and positions to which economics can be applied. Knowing that what I’m learning can be applicable in so many areas, I will definitely be approaching my continued economics training in a way that focuses more so on the principles of what I’m learning rather than how its currently being applied in my courses – given that I now know that these seemingly strictly economical ideas are actually applicable to so many areas of life once you truly understand the principles, concepts and theories individually.
Is there anything else you’d like to share about your participation in the Sadie Conference?
The best part of the entire conference was being able to hear directly from so many of these amazing women. While the career fair and mentorship roundtables were equally as enlightening and beneficial, being able to hear all of the personal journeys, obstacles and accomplishments of women who look like myself was truly eye-opening and remarkable to experience. One of my favorite speakers was Coy Griffin, a fashion technologist and entrepreneur. Coy really stuck out to me because I really admired how she combined her skills in data analytics and information technology with her love for fashion. Seeing someone be able to find the perfect balance between what you’re good at and what you love, to discover and embark on a career path that they are actually passionate about was so reassuring to me. I am so grateful for the opportunity to able to connect with and hear from someone whose journey to finding her passion really resonated with me, especially during my senior year when I myself am trying to decide which career path I want to take following graduation.