Where are all the women in economics?

We hear a lot about the under-representation of women in so-called STEM fields – science, technology, engineering and maths.

But the proportion of women in economics is by some measures smaller.

In the US, only about 13% of academic economists in permanent posts are women; in the UK the proportion is only slightly better at 15.5%.

Only one woman has ever won the Nobel Prize in economics – American Elinor Ostrom in 2009.

And there wasn’t even a single woman on some of the lists floating about guessing who this year’s prize winner would be – it went to the behavioural economist Richard Thaler.

Some have argued that these figures aren’t necessarily the result of bias.

Maybe, they say, women are simply behaving rationally and choosing different disciplines that are perhaps more suited to their temperament and skills, or choosing to work in different but related fields.

But Cambridge University economics lecturer Victoria Bateman says that can’t really explain all of the gap.

“I think that that way of thinking about the problem is is completely false,” says Dr Bateman, who is a fellow at Cambridge’s Gonville & Caius college.

“But I think [it] helps explain why economists have for too long hushed up this problem.

“Because if economists’ models are suggesting that sexism doesn’t exist, that it’s all a result of people’s free choices and… their personal characteristics, then you deny the fact there is a problem.”

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