Women Disrupt! Academia Economists Get an F for Failing to Attract & Keep Women and Minorities!

According to the two Economist Magazine articles below, women are under-represented in universities’ economic departments to a similar degree as in math, computer science, engineering and the physical sciences curriculums. Apparently, economists in academia prefer the more theoretical approach where men supposedly standout and women tend to fallout. The second article below published in January 2015 suggests it is more a reflection of prejudice!

Obviously, Economic Professors in Economic Departments are not practicing what they preach. My father was a professor of chemistry in the USA and was allocated the highest budget, because he had the most students of any curriculum. Freshman inorganic chemistry was a required course for many majors. We all know that women are winning the numbers game in college attendance and so how hard must it be for economists to figure out attracting more women to their curriculum could increase their own budgets and rewards? Is theory so important because it is measurable? Are they so blinded by their own agenda to recognize that theory doesn’t necessarily fully capture what moves economic behavior — stimulating growth or recession, stock market rallies and crashes, debt and consumption levels or home ownership vs. renting, etc?

Last year, Richard Thaler winning the Nobel Prize in Economics due to his expertise in Behavioral Economics shows that there is a trend towards the more psychological and social influences in economic decision making, a trend towards intuitive finance and creative thinking. Not theoretical enough? Theory is important for basic understanding, but economic management is right up there with power and politics. Prioritizing creative, intuitive thinking in the economics curriculum could make it far more interesting, attract much more talent and create economic reward for the departments and their experts.

Supplement: This article is another add-on (published later than this original post), again from The Economist…

Are women in economics held to a higher standard than men? Papers by women are better written than those by men Source: The Economist

Articles Highlights

1st Economist article: Inefficient equilibrium – Women and Economics – The profession’s problem with women could be a problem with economics itself

“They (economists) scorn fuzzy thinking and beliefs that have no basis in fact; they attack problems with a ruthless logic.”

“There is every chance that this lack of diversity constrains or distorts the field’s intellectual development. Women within economics have different opinions from men: in 2013 a survey of American economists found that men in the field were more sceptical of regulation and high minimum wages, and less likely to favour redistribution, than women were. If systemic gender bias skews the way the field looks at things, that has implications for the policymakers and others looking to academic economists for analysis, advice or indeed wisdom.”

“According to information from university websites, about 20% of Europe’s senior economists are women. In America, 15% of full professors are women. At Harvard, arguably the most prestigious economics department in the world, the faculty pictures that beam down from the wall feature 43 senior members of the department. Only three are women. Two have tenure.”

“Claudia Goldin, a professor of economics at Harvard, thinks the way that the subject is taught—with an emphasis on formalism, rather than human dynamics—could be part of the problem.”

“In maths, computer science, engineering and the physical sciences, Ms Ginther (professor of Economics at the University of Kansas) found no discernible difference between the satisfaction reported by men and women with tenure or on the tenure track. In economics the gap is quite big. And it is growing larger (see chart).

Ms Ginther’s work is part of a mounting case that economics has an insidious bias against women.”

“Because people research things based on their experiences, greater representation of women in the field would change it in a number of ways. For one thing, it would take gender more seriously. Men have not proved particularly interested in understanding gender disparity; almost all of the research on gender discrimination within economics is done by women.”

I would say, in general, women in economics tend to choose what is perceived to be weaker and less commercial economic subjects. The female consumer is huge! Take a look at Iris Bohnet’s What Works – Gender Equality by Design!


2nd Economist article (Jan 2015): Sex differences in academia – University challenge – Women are scarce in some, but not all, academic disciplines. New work suggests the cause may be a special kind of prejudice—one that also applies to black people  

“IT IS a long time since the groves of academe were paced only by men, but even now some of them are more populated by women than others are. Why, is a mystery. Though the phenomenon is most discussed in scientific and technological disciplines (new PhDs in maths and physics are earned mostly by men, while—in America at least—half of those in molecular biology and neuroscience are awarded to women), it is equally true in the social sciences and humanities, where art history and psychology are dominated by women, and economics and philosophy by men.

“Various explanations have been advanced, beyond differential prejudice in different fields. That the long hours required for laboratory work are unconducive to child-rearing is one. A second is that those subjects in which women are rarest require habits of systematic thought found (it is claimed by some) more often in men. A third is that, though men and women have the same relevant abilities on average, the statistical distribution of these may be wider in men than women. Since academics are people who have these abilities most abundantly, the tail of male geniuses in the bell curve would, if this were true (the evidence is equivocal) be longer than that of female ones.

“Suggesting this latter possibility in 2005 helped cost Larry Summers, then president of Harvard, his job, for the subject is political dynamite. A paper just published in Science, though, suggests all these explanations are wrong. What is happening, its authors say, really is just a species of prejudice. Moreover, it is a prejudice which, they think, also explains why some ethnic minorities, black people in particular, are under-represented in a similar way.

“The paper’s authors, led by Sarah-Jane Leslie of Princeton university and Andrei Cimpian of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, hypothesise that the crucial variable is something they call field-specific ability (basically, innate talent)—or, rather, a belief in this quality by those already entrenched in a discipline. They have found that the more existing professors think some special talent, beyond intelligence and hard work, is required to do their subject well, the lower will be the percentage of PhD students in that subject who are women.”

Time to rid ourselves of prejudices!

On a separate note, an interesting statistic:

Gender pay gap in the UK (by region). In Northern Ireland, women earn more on average. This is attributed to more civil servant jobs.

Source: @wef; Read full article   / WSJ-The Daily Source

2 Replies to “Women Disrupt! Academia Economists Get an F for Failing to Attract & Keep Women and Minorities!”

  1. Some Comments: “Much to still change!” and “Women have a lot todo in 2018!” Getting started nice and early with the whole Golden Globe ceremony–the talent pool is immense!

  2. […] Women Disrupt! Academia Economists Get an F for Failing to Attract & Keep Women and Minorities! […]

Leave a Reply