Natallia Gray, associate professor of health care management at Southeast Missouri State University.
In 2016, Natallia Gray saw some national data that showed that there was only one female student in economics for every three or four male students. Out of curiosity, she asked to see the stats at Southeast Missouri State University, the institution where she taught economics.
“I found out that at Southeast we only had one female student for every nine to 10 male students in economics,” recalled Gray, who is now an associate professor of health care management at Southeast Missouri.
That spurred her to start a mentoring group with the female economic students there, which would eventually inspire the first Women in Economics Symposium at the St. Louis Fed.
Growing up in Belarus, which had a planned economy at the time, sparked her interest in economics, she noted.
“I think that my early experiences growing up and seeing how much a person's livelihood is affected by economic conditions have led me to be asking questions such as where does prosperity come from, how does trade affect well-being and so on that led to my initial interest in the micro topics,” she said.
Gray began studying at Belarus State Economic University, but then she moved to the U.S. to complete her college education. While at the University of Southern Maine, she met Vaishali Mamgain, a female economic professor who would play a critical role in inspiring her to get a doctorate.
At the time, Gray never thought she would become an economics professor. Yet when she took Mamgain’s class and saw someone like her, a woman who had immigrated, that possibility suddenly emerged.
“I sat in her class and I thought to myself that this can happen,” she said. “And this is the first time that it occurred to me that I can become a professor in economics.”