Esther Duflo has just become the youngest recipient for the Nobel Prize in Economics: but certain publications are refusing to acknowledge her record-breaking achievement.
When Esther Duflo won the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences this week, she became the youngest economic sciences laureate and the second woman in history to receive the honor.
Yet, gender bias dies hard and Duflo – who was co-awarded the title with her husband Abhijit Banerjee, a fellow Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor, and Michael Kremer of Harvard University – soon found herself being referred to merely as Banerjee’s “wife” in coverage of the landmark achievement.
This included the Economic Times, India’s leading business publication: Banerjee was born in India, and the Nobel trio based some of their research to alleviate global poverty in the cities of Mumbai and Vadodara.
Twitter commentators were shocked at the newspaper’s headline, which reduced Duflo to an accessory of her husband’s triumph – with not even a named mention to recognise her success by:
Needless to say, this shade of casual sexism did not go down well with those all too familiar with its guises:
Many people could not believe how such an obvious misstep came about:
To add even more irony to the situation, Duflo is a leading advocate for women in her field.
Along with Banerjee and Kremer, the Paris-born professor developed pioneering techniques to fight poverty and improve access to education among the world’s poorest communities, using specific policy interventions that have been refined over the course of around 20 years of work.
Responding to news that the trio had won the Nobel this week, Duflo dedicated her part of the achievement to blazing a trail for other women like her:
Duflo also used the occasion to draw awareness to the lack of female researchers in her discipline, and how this is affecting its long-term outlook:
Clearly there’s still work to do; not just with opening up the field of economics, and ensuring it nurtures emerging female talent, but also in recognition of the achievements that follow this.
With Duflo at the helm, though, the future looks bright.
Explaining how her team tackles global poverty, she says: “What we try to do in our approach is to say, ‘Look, let’s try to unpack the problems one-by-one and address them as rigorously and scientifically as possible’”.
With the same approach to sexism, who only knows what is possible.