Is the Discipline of Economics Lacking Diversity?

It’s rather interesting to think about different fields of study and the gender break down within them. For example I took a psychology class here at UPS, in which there were only two men. In contrast I took a computer science class in which I was the only girl out of 23 students.

But women are not necessarily misrepresented in the field of economics– look at Janet Yellen, the most powerful economist in the world. But at the same time Elino Ostrom is the only female to win the Nobel Prize in Economics, and she herself was a political scientist.

A survey done by a Princeton professor, who looked at the US, found that fewer than 30 per cent of bachelor’s degrees in economics are awarded to women — and the percentage is similar for doctorates.

Is this just part of the problem that women aren’t drawn to or don’t feel as invited/ encouraged to participate in the STEM fields? This fact clearly is false because the STEM fields now award more degrees to women than men both at the graduate and undergrad level.

So why is Economics left out in this shift of women beginning to dominate the STEM fields? It’s also not just women who are left out, but also other ethnic groups such as Hispanic, Native American, and African American who are less likely to receive a degree in Economics than other Humanities or Business related fields.

Surveys have shown that women in the US just don’t find the subject of Economics appealing. This may be because of the stereotypical white male professor, or Hollywood depicted investment banking, suit wearing jobs to follow the degree- but there is still a piece of the puzzle missing.

There have also been studies done using emails sent out to professors but addressed by either male of female names, showing that the males got more and better responses than the female signed emails. So there also may be an imbedded implicit discrimination in some cases.

But regardless of whether or not the majority of females are driven to pursue economics due to the innate characteristics we are born with, the field itself could use more diversity just like any other male dominated field. Perspective is everything, especially when it comes to constructing policy that will affect both men and women. Debunking the stigmas associated with the economics degree, and depicting the different paths it can take a graduate on is a sure way to nudge more females to consider joining the club.

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