Should-Read: Economist: Women and economics: Inefficient equilibrium: "Donna Ginther... has found telling evidence that women... in economics... face a thicker glass ceiling...

...tenure... achieve[d]/// at a rate 12 percentage points below that of men.... even after adjusting (as much as possible) for differences in family circumstances and publication record. In American universities women who achieve tenure are promoted to full professor within seven years at a rate of 29% compared to 56% for men. Adjusting for other factors, Ms Ginther still finds a gap of 23 percentage points. In other social and natural sciences such differences are a thing of the past....

There is every chance that that this lack of diversity constrains or distorts the field’s intellectual development.... If, on the other hand, women have a similar range of innate potential and inclination towards the subject as men, but are avoiding or leaving it because it treats them worse, then the burden is on economists to change. And that is the way that the evidence currently points....

The women who graduate in economics go into PhD programmes at roughly the same rate as men; they tend to drop out of them at the same rate, too. But once they move on to seeking tenure, women are much more readily lost.... One common suggestion is that women do not like the famously combative style of economics seminars. Motherhood may also be an issue. American academics usually have the option to pause their tenure clock when they have a child. Heather Antecol of Claremont McKenna College and Kelly Bedard and Jenna Stearns of the University of California, Santa Barbara have found that this family-friendly policy disadvantages female economists. Women in the field taking advantage of the extra time mostly use it for child care; men often use it for focused research undistracted by students. The effect has been to lower the chances of a woman getting tenure in her first job by 22 percentage points....

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. There may be deep structural barriers to break through. Historians note that, over the course of the 20th century, economics was butched up. In 1920, 19% of doctorates listed in the American Economic Review were being written by women. By 1940 the number had fallen to 7%. This coincided with a redefinition of the field towards mathematics and the world of paid and thus predominantly male labour. Concerns such as social work and home economics, in which women tended to specialise, were sidelined....

On the basis that economics does have a problem, various interventions might help. Approaches to family leave that don’t privilege men; scrutiny of the higher drop-out rate of female undergraduates; explicit description of each author’s contribution to co-authored papers, as is common in other disciplines; frank discussion of implicit biases. Some such interventions are easier than others. For example, studies show that having more women on the faculty is a powerful encouragement for women seeking postgraduate positions. But if the number of women on faculties could readily be raised, the problem would already have been solved.

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