Number Crunch

Economists Calculated Just How Much Sexism Exists in Their Industry

Women economists get far more scrutiny for their work than their male peers

12%: That’s how many more questions female economists received while presenting at conferences compared to their male counterparts, according to a working paper by a team of economists reported on by the New York Times.

The paper also found that women were more likely to face questions that were patronizing or hostile from conference attendees. This discrepancy is in addition to the fact that women economists are less frequently invited to present at conferences in the first place, accounting for fewer than a quarter of all talks delivered in the last few years (and fewer than 1% of speakers being Black or Hispanic).

The study’s findings are just the latest data point validating years of allegations of bias against women and minorities in the economics profession. In 2017, Alice Wu, then an economics undergraduate student at the University of California, Berkeley, conducted an analysis of conversations on Economics Job Market Rumours, an anonymous online forum used by economists to discuss job opportunities in the field, and found a shocking degree of overt misogyny. Last year, economist Claudia Sahm, who served on the Obama administration’s Council of Economic Advisers, wrote a scathing and widely read blog post titled “Economics is a disgrace” that details the sexism she faced in her career in the industry. (The profession doesn’t fare any better on the racial front, either.)

Given the outsized influence that economists have in helping shape politics and policy and advising major corporations, the biases of the profession ought to be a significant cause for concern not just among economists themselves but for all of us.

How many of those questions are “more of a comment than a question”?

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