The Leaky Economics Pipeline: Women Get Pushed Out Of The Field

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Woman professor

CREDIT: Shutterstock

Fewer women enter the field of economics and when they do, they appear to be pushed out the higher they try to rise, according to a report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.

Women earned about a third of economics Ph.D.s in 2011, compared to 46 percent of all doctorate degrees they earned in all fields put together, including nearly three-quarters of psychology degrees, for example. Their share of economics degrees is actually lower than it was in 1997, when the data was first collected.

Fewer women make it to each step up the ladder in economic academia: In 2012 they made up 28 percent of assistant professors, 22 of associate professors with tenure, and less than 12 percent of full professors.

While women overall tend to be the primary caregivers for their families, which can conflict with the timing of the tenure track, and women tend to publish fewer articles, a study found that even when controlling for such factors, as well as education and ability, there is still a 16 point percentage gap in how likely a woman is to be promoted to a full professor of economics versus a man, “a much larger gap than in other disciplines,” the report notes. “It’s something systemic to the field,” says Claudia Goldin, an economist with Harvard University.

Women in academia generally face many hurdles and barriers. Research has found that while having children is a career advantage for men in universities, it has a big negative impact on women’s careers. That trend is even more pronounced in the sciences. One study found that scholars rate academic publications whose authors have traditionally female names lower quality than for male names. Women’s work is also cited less frequently, as men tend to cite other men and women cite themselves less frequently.

And the dearth of women in economics reflects the same disparity in the real world. They make up less than 20 percent of executive officers and less than a quarter of senior officers in finance. Citigroup has zero female executives, and JP Morgan and Morgan Stanley only have one at each company. A woman has never led the Federal Reserve or the Treasury Department here at home, nor the International Monetary Fund.