Breaking Barriers and Forging Pathways: Marionette Holmes, C'90, Trailblazes Efforts for Black Women in Economics

Angel Mills | Oct-11-2023

For Marionette Holmes, Ph.D., C’90, associate professor and chair of Spelman College’s economics department, pursuing a career in economics is a family tradition.

“I decided early on to pursue economics as a career,” said Holmes. “When I attended Spelman, my father, who was a political science professor, suggested that if I really wanted to influence the landscape for African-Americans, I should go into economics. He saw economics as a way to effect policy and make both a cultural and global impact.”

According to an American Economic Association (AEA) 2018 report, Black economists comprise only 3.6% of all economics faculty in the United States. Similarly, a 2020 AEA study revealed that Black women face significant underrepresentation, with only 0.7% of Ph.D. economists in the nation identifying as Black women. Holmes has aspirations of reshaping the field while championing the inclusion of these women.

Under Holmes's leadership, efforts are underway to amplify the presence of Black women in economics. As the principal investigator of a grant funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, she is driving initiatives to increase the representation of Black women in economics doctoral programs.

The Sloan Foundation grant supports Spelman's commitment to enhancing Black women’s representation in STEM. These comprehensive endeavors encompass a variety of activities, including a summer bridge program designed to strengthen mathematical competencies; a distinguished speaker series showcasing accomplished women of color in economics; and initiatives focused on enhancing graduate program applications through a journal club and research experiences with esteemed economics faculty from Stanford University and Howard University.

"I am deeply committed to creating pathways for Black women in economics and empowering them to excel in the field,” said Holmes. “Through these initiatives and the support of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation grant, we are breaking barriers, fostering inclusivity, and inspiring future generations of economists to contribute to meaningful change."

After earning her bachelor’s from Spelman, Holmes earned her MBA in Finance at Clark Atlanta University and her doctorate in agricultural and applied economics at the University of Georgia. After graduating, she served as a Steven M. Teutsch Post Doctoral Prevention Effectiveness Fellow at the Centers for Disease Control, where she worked with the National Center for Chronic Disease and Health Promotion to estimate economic impacts and assist in resource allocation for HIV/AIDS and TB programs in Africa. Today, her research centers on assessing the financial ramifications of public health interventions on communities of color domestically and globally.

Holmes also serves on the executive committee for Pathways to Research and Doctoral Careers, the board for the American Economic Association's Committee on the Status of Women in the Economics Profession, and the Sadie Collective – an influential initiative addressing the pipeline and pathway challenges for Black women in economics, finance, data science, and public policy.