As part of an effort to make economics a more welcoming field for women, the American Economic Association has adopted a new rule barring employers from interviewing job candidates in hotel rooms at AEA events—previously a common practice.
The Allied Social Sciences Association (ASSA) Annual Meeting has gained a reputation as a recruiting hot spot for the American Economic Association. But a new AEA rule “strongly discourages” what has long been a common practice at the event: job interviews in hotel rooms.
The move is the latest in a series of steps AEA has taken “with the goal of improving the climate of the economics profession,” according to a summary of the new policy for the 2020 conference. Previously, in 2018, the association revised its code of professional conduct, and last year it adopted a detailed Policy on Harassment and Discrimination.
“While interviewing in suites is considered acceptable, the AEA is strongly discouraging conducting interviews in a regular hotel room,” according to the new conference recruitment policy. “The ASSA is therefore presenting several interviewing options for the 2020 annual meeting,” including suites, enclosed modular meeting spaces, and tables.
On its website, AEA framed the change within its code of conduct requirements, which are mandatory for attendees. “Acknowledgement and acceptance of both the code and the [harassment and discrimination] policy will be required for any individual prior to registration for the ASSA meetings,” the association stated.
AEA President Ben Bernanke, the former chairman of the Federal Reserve, has focused on improving the association’s culture in his leadership role, according to the Wall Street Journal.
“Clearly, [hotel room interviews are] something people were concerned about, and we thought it was better to get ahead of it to the extent we can,” Bernanke said, adding that he had found himself “in many hotel rooms speaking to one or two faculty members from different schools” when he was an aspiring economist looking for a job in academia in 1979.
The new policy earned plaudits from many observers, including Harvard Ph.D. student Kathryn Holston, who led the call to end the controversial practice.
“Even if nothing that’s incredibly negative happens during the interview, just having it in that setup can set the stage, particularly for female candidates, to be in a position where they might be uncomfortable—particularly if they might be sexual assault survivors,” she told the Journal.
The changes to AEA policy come at a time of heightened concern about discrimination in the economics profession. Earlier this year, the association released a survey that documented reports of widespread sexual harassment in the field, along with perceptions that women economists aren’t taken as seriously as their male counterparts. The report also noted that nearly a third of respondents of color reported experiencing discrimination in the profession.