Caro Janse van Rensburg reports from the IAFFE conference.
The 23rd to the 26th of June saw the International Association for Feminist Economics (IAFFE) annual conference taking place in Galway at the National University of Ireland. To say that this conference was eye-opening is an understatement, but it is a testament to the commitment of these academics that we were able to glean so much from such great minds in but a single weekend.
Dr. Claassen and myself were presenting a part of my Masters dissertation looking at how individual characteristics and in particular marital status influence employment in South Africa. Needless to say, considering the fact that being a man, I was outnumbered 50 to 1 at this conference I was hoping to do the field of Feminist Economics proud. The reaction of the fellow academics was truly astounding. Despite the fact that many of them have been academics for longer than what I have been alive, there was not a moment where they did not display the utmost respect for the work we were doing. I suppose it speaks to the all-encompassing pursuit of equality that these researchers have devoted themselves to. We wanted to uphold the same values they have been guided by their whole careers and for these academics that was more than enough. We received such insightful comments, suggestions on how to make our work ever more compelling and even offers to review the final article.
The most difficult decision to make was which of the multiplicity of sessions to attend considering just how much fascinating research was being done. Investigation is being done into education gaps, marriage premiums and marriage penalties and the disconnect between economic policies and societal practices – to name but a few. But it wasn’t even the formal presentations that were so enriching. It happened to be the conversations around the breakfast table about Germany’s fiscal policies and how that influences women; those are the insights that really strike a chord.
It is undeniable that there is incredible value in publishing and sharing the ideas one has as an academic with fellow researchers and hopefully even broader society. This conference though had a palpable air of something even bigger to it. Without the intent of a specified theme, the challenge so many of these academics were grappling with is where to draw the line between our papers and our activism. There is no simple way to measure the opportunity cost of running one more regression or protesting against abortion still being illegal in Ireland. However, it is indicative of this interdisciplinary field that academics from all over are trying to find the answers to these difficult questions.
Finally, I must thank both Professor Krugell and Professor Viviers for all their support in this endeavour. It means so much to have such faith placed in a person just starting out on their academic career. Most of all, to Dr Claassen for setting the wheel in motion all those months ago and for being the very backbone of all we have embarked on. To quote Dr. Claassen herself – “we have found our people.”