Gender bias in economics
This page will be occasionally updated with links to the ongoing debate about gender gaps in economics (staff and students), most recent at the top.
To recommend an article, blog post, or video for inclusion, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Discover Economics is a campaign, supported by a wide range of economics organisations, to
- broaden the appeal of economics to potential students
- change their perceptions of economics and economists
- increase diversity among economics students. Women and state-educated students are currently under-represented among undergraduates and A-level students.
Take a look at the web site and its case studies, and please tell your colleagues about it, or consider contributing.
News articles and commentary
What can we do about the diversity problem in economics? by Amrit Amirapu, Amanda Gosling, and Emma Gorman, Times Higher Education
"[R]ecent research shows that providing successful and charismatic role models can double the number of women who elect to study economics."
"Culture is the main factor of why there is a low percentage of women in economics and that the underlying causes have not changed. [...] Monitoring and reporting are really important and lots of positive change has happened here, which gives transparency and evidence to the issue but the underlying context (i.e. culture) has not changed."
Who Studies Economics? An Analysis of Diversity in the UK Economics Pipeline, report for the Royal Economic Society by S. Paredes Fuentes et al.
"While economics fails to attract women into studying the subject, those who do study economics do well. In fact, they are less likely to drop out and more likely to be awarded a “good degree” (2:1 or above) and a first class degree than male students from the same socio-economic background and ethnicity."
Racial and gender achievement gaps in an economics classroom by Daria Bottan et al., award-winning paper in the International Review of Economic Education
"These findings point to female under-represented minority students as a particularly vulnerable demographic in this economics course. Much of the focus on diversity and inclusion in economics has been on gender, but this focus on the gender gap has masked an important heterogeneity within female students of economics."
Women are under-represented in economics globally, Brittney J. Miller, Nature News & Comment
Summary of a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "Institutions ranked highly in terms of research output have fewer women in entry-level positions than do lower-ranking institutions, suggesting that women are not being hired at the same rate as men for those roles."
Does economics have a problem with women?, Tim Harford
"Academic economics remains a largely male activity, and the more senior the job grade, the more male-dominated it is. Women make up 32 per cent of economics undergraduate students (up from 27 per cent in 1996) and 26 per cent of academic economists (up from 18 per cent in 1996). Over a quarter of a century, this pace of progress is not inspiring. It’s also bad news for economics."
The Gender Imbalance in UK Economics by the RES Women's Committee
"Not only do women comprise only a quarter of academic economists, they are also more likely to be employed at lower rather than higher academic ranks, in research-only and teaching-only positions—instead of more traditional posts that combine both teaching and research—and on fixed-term contracts. Moreover, progress in closing the gender gap appears to be stalling in some areas, and, at both the student level and at the level of female minority academics, there are some signs of retreat."
Women in Academic Economics: Have We Made Progress? by Donna K. Ginther and Shulamit Kahn in AEA Papers and Proceedings
"We found that women in economics were 15 percent less likely to be promoted to associate professor after controlling for cumulative publications, citations, grants, and grant dollars. In contrast, we found no significant gender differences in promotion in other fields including biomedical science, physical science, political science, mathematics and statistics, and engineering."
Women in economics: a UK perspective by Danula K Gamage, Almudena Sevilla, and Sarah Smith in Oxford Review of Economic Policy
"Women are under-represented at all levels and particularly at the senior level. The modest increases at the lower levels suggest that it will be a long time before parity is achieved [.] The under-representation of women in economics is a discipline-wide problem."
Not for want of trying: Effort and Success of women in principles of microeconomics, Lester Hadsell in International Review of Economics Education
"Prior research suggests that women enter their first college-level economics class with lower expectations of success while also thinking they must work harder than men to earn similar grades. [...] Women with a B+ (just shy of an A-) before the final exam are more likely to choose to submit an optional final compared to similar men."
Economics for All: 7 Action Points to make Economics more Inclusive edited by Stefania Paredes Fuentes, University of Warwick
"Lack of diversity amongst economists means that our universities and departments of Economics are not well-equipped with ideas and policies on how to tackle discrimination within the discipline. However, there is a lot we can learn from those ahead in the game."
Gender and equality at top economics journals, summary of research by Erin Hengel and Eunyoung Moon in the RES Newsletter
"[O]ur results suggest female-authored papers published in top economics journals are higher quality than male-authored papers. Higher quality female-authored papers could be consistent with gender-neutral acceptance standards if women's papers are accepted more often or the variance in their quality is greater, Neither appears to be the case."
"We [need] to raise awareness among students, academics, and employers in the private and public sector of the importance of diversity in economics, as this would benefit all and not just women."
The Changing Face of Economics, Dani Rodrick, Project Syndicate (free registration required)
"A profession that is less diverse and less open to different identities is more likely to exhibit groupthink and hubris. If it is to generate ideas to help society achieve inclusive prosperity, it will have to start by becoming more inclusive itself."
A Year After a #MeToo Reckoning, Economists Still Grapple With It, New York Times
"An exhaustive study of economics seminars, presented by Alicia Sasser Modestino of Northeastern University on behalf of several co-authors, found that female economists face far more questions from men in the audience during their presentations than male economists do. 'In general,' Ms. Modestino told a largely packed room for a session on gender in economics, 'women are more likely to receive questions that are not fair.'"
Women In Economics by Rain Newton-Smith, CBI, interviewed by the Royal Economic Society
Gender pay gap for UK economists ‘unchanged in 20 years’ Times Higher Education
"According to the survey of 543 academic economists, men in the discipline earned 15 per cent more than women. [W]hile men and women reported similar average teaching evaluation scores, men who rated themselves as excellent teachers earned 8 per cent more than other men, while women who described themselves as excellent teachers earned 10 per cent less than other women."
An Alternative Economics Summer Reading List, Diversifying and Decolonising Economics
Reading list featuring diverse perspectives missing from lists published in the FT or The Economist. Includes Kristen R. Ghodsee on socialism, Caroline Criado Perez on sexism in social science data, and Johnna Montgomerie on household debt.
Mind the gap – new study examines pay and job rank among academic economists Press release summarising new paper in British Journal of Industrial Relations by Karen Mumford and C. Sechel
"The pay gap between male and female economists at UK universities has not fallen for 20 years, a new study has revealed. [...] The total “unexplained” pay gap is substantial at 12.7%. Half of it is from lack of promotion and half of it is from male professors earning more than females, the study revealed. [...] The study also reveals that men are 11% more likely than women to be promoted to Professor, and amongst Professors men earn 11% more than women."
Why are there so few women in economics and what can be done about it? Policy Matters podcast, 35 minutes
"Awareness of implicit bias - unconscious bias - is really the only way to address it. It's clear that the problem is not equally recognised by men and by women." - Prof. Sarah Smith, head of the Royal Economics Society’s Women’s Committee
The way to fix bias in economics is to recruit more women by Mohsen Javdani, FT
"Ideological biases make the economics profession ill-equipped to engage in balanced debates regarding politically controversial economic issues that characterise our time, such as inequality, austerity and climate change. We found female economists exhibit less ideological bias to begin with and were able to set their biases aside when dealing with an issue that they had personally experienced."
Do Women Avoid Economics...Or Does Economics Avoid Women? by John T. Harvey, Forbes
"The core explanation of the determination of wages in the typical economics classroom centers on the idea that your salary equals some objective measure of your actual contribution[.] [W]ho among the members of an introductory-level economics class is this likely to attract? For whom is “you get what you deserve” likely to strike a chord?"
Female Economists Push Their Field Toward a #MeToo Reckoning by Ben Casselman and Jim Tankersley, New York Times
"Leading male economists offered an unprecedented acknowledgment of harassment and discrimination in the field. 'Economics certainly has a problem,' Ben Bernanke [...] said during a panel discussion. The profession has, 'unfortunately, a reputation for hostility toward women and minorities,' he said."
Women in economics: Stalled progress by Shelly Lundberg and Jenna Stearns for VoxEU
"We propose that differential assessment of men and women is one important factor in explaining women’s failure to advance in economics, reflected in gendered institutional policies and apparent implicit bias in promotion and tenure processes."
Economics Capstone Podcast- Lack of female representation in economics by Rachel Borntrager, hq press (Hamden/ Quinnipac)
"Although there is no explicit way to know whether the gender imbalance is negatively affecting the field of economics, a 2013 survey of American economists showed that women were more likely than men to support higher minimum wages, regulations, and redistribution ('Women and economics'). This survey demonstrates that women, on average, have different opinions than men."
Women follow IMF’s Christine Lagarde into top economics jobs by Chris Giles, Financial Times
"Only one woman has been awarded the Nobel Prize for economics, and the number of women to have led the academic profession on either side of the Atlantic can easily be counted on one hand. But this male-dominated world is changing."
"What is the RES Women's Committee?" Sarah Smith of the University of Bristol explains the problem and what the Committee is doing.
Economics has a gender problem—and it starts at school by Sarah Smith, Prospect
"Economics students are predominantly male and more likely to come from a private school than the average student. STEM subjects have made huge strides in improving their appeal to women and now have a 52 per cent female share at undergraduate level. Economics stands at less than one-third and, if anything, the trend is going in the opposite direction."
Bank of England vacancy provides chance to tackle gender problem by Lucy Meakin and David Goodman, Bloomberg
"More than 70 percent of U.K. students accepted to study the subject at undergraduate level in 2015 were male, data compiled by the University of Bristol’s Economics Network show."
Where are all the female economists? by Gemma Tetlow, Financial Times
"Women are far less likely than men to study economics, [...] [W]hile other traditionally male subjects such as engineering have made progress in attracting women, economics has struggled."
Student Evaluations Can't Be Used to Assess Professors by Kristina Mitchell, Slate, (not economics-specific)
"Repeated studies are demonstrating that evaluation scores are biased in favor of white, cisgender men. [U]ntil we’ve found a way to measure teaching effectiveness that isn’t biased against women, we simply cannot use teaching evaluations in any employment decisions in higher education."
Gender Bias, by the Numbers Inside Higher Ed
"A study of leading introductory economics textbooks, presented at the annual meeting of the American Economic Association, found that three-quarters of the people mentioned in the books (77 percent), real or imagined, are male. [...] [W]hen these textbooks do mention women [...], they’re more likely to be involved in food, fashion or household tasks. Men are more likely to be appear in relation to business or policy."
Wielding Data, Women Force a Reckoning Over Bias in the Economics Field New York Times
"Paper after paper presented at the American Economic Association panel showed a pattern of gender discrimination, beginning with barriers women face in choosing to study economics and extending through the life cycle of their careers, including securing job opportunities, writing research papers, gaining access to top publications and earning proper credit for published work."
Where are all the women in economics? by Kim Gittleson, BBC Business. Summary of recent debates
"We hear a lot about the under-representation of women in so-called STEM fields - science, technology, engineering and maths. But the proportion of women in economics is by some measures smaller. In the US, only about 13% of academic economists in permanent posts are women; in the UK the proportion is only slightly better at 15.5%."
Gender Stereotyping in Academia: Evidence from Economics Job Market Rumors Forum Paper by Alice Wu
"With more than one million posts on the Economics Job Market Rumors forum over two years, I identify gender-related posts [...] Words with the strongest association with female are mostly inappropriate, and the occurrence of these words in a forum that was meant to be academic and professional exposes the issues of explicit biases in social media."
Economics papers by women are stalled longer at journals – but they end up more readable and more improved: Press release from Royal Economic Society about Erin Hengel (University of Liverpool)'s research on bias in peer review
"The only straightforward explanation consistent with the data, however, is that referees apply higher standards to women’s writing. [...] Tougher standards applied more broadly reduce women’s output; ignoring them undervalues female labour and may confound estimates of gender discrimination."
The 11th Royal Economic Society’s Report on The Gender Balance in UK Economics Departments and Research Institutes in 2016 (PDF) Survey results from the RES Women's Committee
"Women account for a 28% of all academic staff in UK economics departments. Women are under-represented among Professors; one in three men are Professors, compared to one in seven women. 20% of men and women have part-time employment in the sector; men are more often found in senior positions than women."
See past publications from the RES Women's Committee on the RES site.
More on the gender gap in economics
"[T]his evidence would suggest that economics is improving as a place to be for women although — of course — other disciplines may be improving faster. [...] [W]e have little knowledge of what is happening to discourage girls from enrolling in economics at secondary school and in undergraduate degrees at universities."
Percentage of female undergraduates (data from HEFCE)
Proportion of female undergraduates taking Economics, compared against Finance, Business Studies and Mathematics, using data for Higher Education in England. Click to expand.
Gender of recipients of economics awards
Economics awards and the genders of notable recipients (data table) (based on Scholia by Finn Årup Nielsen)
Powered by Wikidata. Warning: data for more notable awards will be complete, but more obscure or early-career awards will have gaps because some recipients are not notable.