On February 20, St. Kate’s alumna Maakwe Cumanzala '19 attended the Second Annual Sadie T.M. Alexander Conference for Economics and Related Fields in Washington, D.C. The conference invites speakers who are prominent in the field of economics plus other quantitative and policy focused fields. The Sadie Collective reports that only about .5% of economics PhDs were awarded to Black women in 2017. Every year, the primary mission at the conference is to address this disproportionality, give a supportive networking platform, and brainstorm solutions.
At the conference, Cumanzala was honored with the Outstanding Young Professional award. This award is presented to a Black young professional woman who is a post- bachelor and has done outstanding work in the field of economics. To be considered for the award the recipient must be nominated and then selected from among the many other amazing nominees. Cumanzala was nominated by St. Kate’s faculty for the research she has produced, coordinated, and supervised on over five projects with through her time with the Economics and Political Science Department at St. Catherine University.
Moving forward after the conference, Cumanzala hopes to be more intentional about reaching out and supporting fellow women in the field. She said that the gathering reminded her that we are not all alone in our quests for justice and that we can work together and find opportunity in making connections. She says, “There is this false concept that there is only space for one woman or one black woman in the room and that we all need to compete with each other. Instead we need to open doors and leave those doors open for the next woman and bridge the gaps which isolation creates.”
Eventually, Cumanzala hopes to obtain her PhD in economics and looks forward to being able to include her voice in the quantitative field. She emphasizes how economics is a language of power and that when only white, straight men have that power and we do not include the perspectives of diverse groups, it is inefficient. We need to be asking ourselves, how does this choice impact the next person. Cumanzala mentions how Black women are the most disadvantaged and affected when it comes to policy decisions since this demographic tends to take the most community responsibility.
At St. Kate’s, this mission is also being pursued through the Minnesota Center for Diversity in Economics, which Cumanzala played an integral role in establishing. There is power in diversity in Economics, and current St. Kate’s students and alumnae strive towards this.