The Progressive Post

Gender perspective: how differently economics might be done?

The lack of women in top positions in economics contributes to misogyny and, at a deeper level, to a more disguised form of discrimination.

08/03/2018

The under-representation of women in economics remains a chronic phenomenon, so that two visions are commonly used to describe the status of women in the economics profession:

 

  • a leaky pipeline to illustrate how an increase in the number of women graduates has not led to an increase in the proportion of women researchers, especially at the highest levels of academia;
  • a sticky floor that obliges women to stay longer in low-level positions and that prevents them to reach the top of the profession.

The lack of women in top positions in economics contributes to misogyny and, at a deeper level, to a more disguised form of discrimination as reported by Zacchia 2017.

In a gender-biased institutional context where rules to determine career prospects in academia do not generally behave neutrally with respect to research fields and gender, to reach top academic roles – or sometimes any academic position – women economists are increasingly forced to conform to a masculine’/mainstream model of researching and publishing. Broadly speaking, gender in macroeconomics focus on dualism: on one hand the ‘masculine’/mainstream epistemology where science produces demonstrable truths and gender differences are treated as market imperfections to eliminate and, on the other hand the ‘feminist’/non mainstream epistemology that requires a broader knowledge, being provisional and subject to uncertainty. Only the latter perspective considers the key elements of gendered economics, such as “the emergent and non-dualistic nature of identity, the integral role of values and emotion in economic activity, the importance of social convention, and the role of power other than market power” (Dow 2017).

On one hand the ‘masculine’/mainstream epistemology where science produces demonstrable truths and gender differences are treated as market imperfections to eliminate and, on the other hand the ‘feminist’/non mainstream epistemology that requires a broader knowledge, being provisional and subject to uncertainty.

In this sense, diversity of researchers and research methods and topics is fundamental to the scientific advancement of economics as a discipline practiced around the world and for a better understanding of reality.

The global trend of re-organising the academic world according to the competitive logic of the global marketplace (i.e. the use of standardised bibliometric indexes to measure research quality) ignored the importance of diversity in sciences.

It is import now to establish a debate about how to account for diversity, using a range of indicators to reflect and support the plurality of research and researcher career paths.

A constant monitoring of the status of women in economics, the reinforcement of specific committees or monitoring groups that could straighten the practice of fair and transparent selection of staff and equality impact assessment would be crucial to support equality and diversity among researchers and among research fields in order to foster the progressive and equitable development of economic thought.

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