International Economics
03 November 2021

Guidelines for an inclusive Economics Department

The Guidelines for an inclusive Economics Department are the results of the collaboration between the Women in Economics Léman IHEID working group and the faculty steering committee of the Department of Economics.

The Women in Economics Léman Initiative is a joint initiative from the Graduate Institute, the University of Geneva, the University of Lausanne and EPFL to create a network of PhD students, postdocs, professors and other researchers. The main goal is to kick-off a broad conversation about how systemic biases (based on gender, ethnicity, seniority, etc.) affect us as a community of economic researchers and professionals. If you would like to know more about what brought us to outline the Guidelines for an inclusive Economics Department, you can read the Women in Economics Léman manifesto, as well as our background research document.




The objective of these guidelines is to generate a collaborative atmosphere where everybody, regardless of gender, ethnicity, sex, age, sexual orientation, ability, seniority and socioeconomic background feels a sense of belonging and respect. Such a space has the distinct feature of not tolerating diversity but embracing it through affirmation and empathy. These guidelines do not address recent situations within the department. They are not a criticism of current behaviors but a necessary and long overdue step to create a systematic tool for the future, especially as new faculty and students will leave and join the department.

These guidelines focus on three priority targets: (i) fostering diversity among faculty, (ii) facilitating constructive student-faculty interactions, and (iii) promoting a supportive, inclusive and collegial seminar culture.


Target I: Fostering diversity among faculty
Having a diverse set of backgrounds among faculty helps to create a sense of belonging and thereby greater empowerment and self-confidence. Not only faculty members belonging to under-represented groups should be role models, any professor can be a role model, an ally and an agent of change.

  1. Reflect on your own subconscious biases. Sometimes it can be hard to recognize bias. Try to think: would you judge the value of the experience or work in the same fashion if the candidate had a different gender or did belong to an under-represented group? Take Harvard’s implicit association test for gender and career. If you wish to take more IAT (on age, race, disability, etc.) click here.


  2. Push back against subconscious biases: Do not assume that women and people from under-represented groups are “diversity hires” or “diversity admits”. They had to climb a higher hill to get here.


  3. Call out biases when you notice them, particularly in interviews and admissions settings.

    1. Push back against the scarcity argument, often used to justify the non-inclusive status quo

    2. Avoid groupthink in candidate assessment. Collect independent candidates’ assessment rather than agreeing on a common rating

    3. Be conscious of gendered language in recommendation letters

    4. Set objective evaluation criteria ahead of time and hold each other accountable

    5. Do not base your hiring decisions on personal information such as age, fertility, marital status, or family background of candidates

Target II: Facilitate constructive faculty-student interactions: Advising Equitably
While PhD students do exhibit a high level of independence, cultural, and socio-economic differences as well as language barriers can affect access to resources and ability to speak up, be noticed, or catch opportunities.

  1. Reflect on your own subconscious biases (see target 1).


  2. Communicate clearly what you expect in the supervision relationship and what is important to you. If you co-author with students, remember that you are interacting with someone who is likely less experienced.

    1. Take the initiative and set up meetings with your supervisees

    2. Opt for regular constructive feedback to allow for a learning experience. Focus on performance, not personality

    3. We strongly encourage professors to organize yearly one-on-one meetings with their supervisees to discuss how the PhD is proceeding in terms of achievements but also struggles. This meeting should be the occasion to assess the goals set in the previous year and redefine the PhD path based on the expectations of both the student and the professor. We recommend having the first yearly meeting shortly after students’ preliminary thesis defense (MPT)


  3. The mental health student is the most important thing in both the personal and professional life spheres - and it is a huge yet little talked about issue among economics PhD students.

    1. As a supervisor, the expectation is not that you become the students’ therapist, but rather that you be mindful of their mental health

    2. Here you can find resources on different issues related to health topics recommended by the institute that you could point out to the students. Here you can find resources on the services offered to students related to physical, mental health and wellbeing


  4. Off-campus meetings. If you want to have off-campus casual meetings with your students, ensure also students from under-represented categories are included.


  5. When giving job market advice, bear in mind that individuals have different goals. Avoid labelling non-academic jobs as “alternative careers” and allow students to openly express an interest in these as their primary goal.

Target III: Promote a supportive, inclusive and collegial seminar culture
Tough questions can be helpful and constructive. This does not mean they should be asked in an arrogant or demeaning way. Tough questions are impactful when asked respectfully.

  1. Balance the pool of seminar speakers: While we aim at a 50-50 representation of male and female speakers, we do not want this to result in an imbalance in terms of topics, seniority or number of speakers per hosting professor. Therefore, we would like to create a balanced pool of suggested speakers:

    1. For each male speaker suggested, professors should suggest a female speaker (and vice versa)

    2. When ranking speakers, faculty members should ensure gender balance: the top 2 positions should be given to a male and a female speaker

    3. Do not only suggest the top women/minority speakers that probably already have a full agenda

      1. The European Economics Association’s WinE directory offers a list of female academics in European universities and institutions

      2. IDEAS RePEc offers a search engine to find seminar speakers that allows you to filter your search based on gender, seniority, field, location


    4. We would like the faculty members to welcome suggestions from PhD students, as well as inviting more PhD students to join the lunches or dinners with invited speakers


  2. As hosting professor, set the tone at the beginning of the seminar and be prepared to gently intervene should the rules not be followed.

    1. Establish an embargo to questions at the beginning of a presentation (10 minutes or until the introduction is over, depending on what is shorter)

    2. Designate a Q&A session at the end of the presentation to encourage people to wait to see if their question is answered

    3. Questions should be asked by raising hands. It is up to speakers to allow the audience to ask questions by interrupting the presentation


  3. Create a productive environment:

    1. Don’t be difficult for the sake of being difficult

    2. Do not repeatedly ask questions hammering the same point when the speaker has clearly not had time to integrate the critique

    3. Other examples of counter-productive contributions from seminar audience members (partly from the AEA Best practices for economists, paraphrased below):

      1. Overly technical questions, either to tear down or to show off

      2. Expecting norms from a different subfield to be applied

      3. Making the seminar about themselves

      4. Extended back-and-forth digressing from the main topic

      5. Talking between audience members

      6. Typing on your laptop during the presentation

IE Guidelines
International Economics

Guidelines for an inclusive Economics Department