The underrepresentation of women in the field of economics
A survey taken almost 20 years ago indicated that there is a ‘good-old-boy‘ network in the economics profession, a proposition as agreed upon by 98 percent of women economists at the time of the survey. Moreover a smaller majority of men agreed that – without more women in the field, that kind of network is likely to persist.
As per reports, the progress of women studying economics that was easing the scarcity of women economic professional has been stalled in recent years.
The reports also suggest that women students studying economic in American universities has flatlined and to make matters worse the pool of prospective women economists seems to be shrinking.
Economics being an influencer on public policy, the absence of women voices does raise an alarm for future prospects of the policy framework and hence is not just a gender issue.
According to reported numbers
In 2017, the share of women in the first-year doctorate program for economics was 32 per cent as against 33 per cent in 2000, that is no change at all not considering the 1% decline. The gender gap is so wide that out of six of the top twenty economics programs, less than 1/5th of the incoming doctoral students were females.
This decline of women students in the early stages of economic careers has lead to reshape the structure of the filed at senior levels.
For instance, a report published by the American Economic Association’s Committee for the Status of Women in the Economics Profession, shows that post six years owing to the decline of the share of women students in the doctoral programs the number of women Ph.D. holders also showed a downfall. Consequently post seven years data for tenured associate professors of economics showed no increase.
In the 1990s, there was peak in women undergraduates who chose to major in economics. But the numbers have trickled down since.
In 2016, women majoring in economics were only 35 per cent which is about the same percentage of the 1980s in spite of the fact that women earn more undergraduate degrees on the whole.
Why the gap is widening
Many studies have found the barriers for women professionals in the field that might act as a deterrent for the next generation to peruse a career in the filed. For instance, women are held to higher standards in written work. They are not given credit for papers that are co-written with men.
Student teaching evaluations are biased against female candidates while debates around economic research often find women in the secondary space.
Moreover, women who start a family fall behind due to the lack of support from family, peers and superiors, during the birth and caregiving years.
This has resulted in the overall underrepresentation of women’s voice in economics.
The need for female participation in economics
Researchers have shown that women economists are more inclined to sign petitions that call for an active participation of the Government in the economy.
Reports also indicate that women economists dwell on different topics than men. For instance, men dominate macroeconomics while women economics are more focused on studying the intricacies of the labour markets and welfare and well-being sectors like health and education. therefore if there where more female economists these sectors are sure to receive more attention.
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Consider the merger 20% of women participation at the World Economic Form, Davos this year. There is a need to women and men to work together to bridge this gender gap to encourage women talent that speaks to issues men would not pick up. The conjugal responsibilities cannot be considered as a hindrance to ones career, especially in the case of women.
Understanding and flexibilities need to be extended to encourager women participation in the field so that better policy reforms can be made and more productive debates can be engaged into.