Women in Economics

A few weeks ago, I sat down with CTaLE’s Dr. Ramin Nassehi to talk about his Economics Walk around UCL’s Bloomsbury campus. After making notes for his featured blog post (found here), he mentioned how ironic it was that though UCL’s Department of Political Economy was ground-breaking in that it hosted the first coeducational class in a British university in 1871, the progress of women in economics seems to have stalled in modern times.

This post is a very general discussion and if personal views are shared, they are my own and should not be attributed to CTaLE, UCL or any other organisation that I am associated with.

The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences, also known as the Nobel Prize in Economics, is one of many prestigious awards in this field. With the first award being in 1969, only one woman, Elinor Ostrom, has won and that was in 2009 – already 10 years ago. In terms of women in influential economic positions, the first woman to serve as chair of the U.S. Federal Reserve was Janet Yellen in 2014. These awards and nominations show that many firsts are still occurring 150 years on, and that economics is still a largely male-dominated field.

Several articles explore the lack of female economists and the possible reasons behind this. The Financial Times found that women across different countries are less likely to study economics. This could be because there are fewer women already in the field hence less female economist role models. Shelly Lundberg and Jenna Stearns looked into female academics in economics and found that productivity could be a factor as well. New female economists have limited access to mentors and receive less credit when publishing with co-authors thus affecting their probability of getting a tenured position. The BBC further summarizes that female economists’ papers take six months longer to be reviewed, and even with tenure they get paid less than their male counterparts. These are some of many constraints to progress.

Work is underway to promote economics in schools to capture students’ interests, which hopefully means more future female economists. The same Financial Times mentioned earlier cited UCL’s Professor Wendy Carlin and the CORE programme, in which Dr. Parama Chaudhury is also a part of, as introducing new ways of conceptualising economics to make it appealing to students. Though progress may have stalled for now, a shift in teaching methods and economic culture could make way for many.  

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