Claudia Goldin’s recent achievement of winning the Nobel Prize in Economics garnered widespread attention, with her groundbreaking work offering “the first comprehensive account of women’s earnings and labor market participation throughout history”. Despite this positive recognition, a recent survey conducted by Marianne Bertrand, an economist at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, sheds light on a perplexing trend within the field of economics. Presented at the American Economic Association’s annual meeting in San Antonio, the survey introduces a conundrum suggesting a gap in the satisfaction of women from professions associated with economics.
Bertrand’s survey and its findings
According to Bertrand’s findings, the proportion of women in the field of economics who expressed satisfaction with their work has experienced a notable decline. The survey reveals a decrease from 20% in 2018 to 17% in 2023. highlighting a concerning trend that raises questions about the overall well-being and contentment of women in the economics profession. This shift in satisfaction is particularly noteworthy, considering it occurred during a period marked by the #MeToo movement, which gained momentum and initiated conversations around workplace dynamics and gender equality starting in 2018.
The juxtaposition of Goldin’s groundbreaking work on women’s economic history with Bertrand’s recent survey results underscores the complexity of challenges faced by women in the field of economics. The findings invite further exploration into the factors contributing to the declining job satisfaction among women in this profession and prompt a critical examination of the impact of broader societal movements, such as #MeToo, on the dynamics within the field of economics. Addressing these challenges requires a comprehensive and nuanced approach to ensure the continued advancement and inclusion of women in economics, fostering a supportive and equitable environment for all professionals in the field.
India in the discussion
The impact of Marianne Bertrand’s survey resonates significantly in the context of India. In a country where women often encounter structural discouragement from pursuing professions related to economics, the repercussions of this trend are particularly massive. India grapples with pervasive gender gaps in both the labour force and wages, making a discussion on women’s satisfaction in the work culture imperative.
Such discussions not only shed light on the immediate workplace dynamics but also provide valuable insights into the broader social and cultural implications of the female workforce in the Indian context. The structural discouragement, whether overt or subtle, has contributed to a gender imbalance in various sectors, with women being underrepresented in roles related to economics and facing additional challenges in career progression.
Challenges in the Indian context: women in economics
Examining the aspect of job satisfaction, as highlighted by Bertrand’s survey, becomes particularly challenging in the Indian context due to a lack of prior research on this specific topic. The absence of comprehensive data makes it difficult to gauge the extent of the issue and the nuanced factors influencing women’s satisfaction in economics-related professions. Nonetheless, it underscores the need for dedicated research and attention to understand the unique challenges faced by women in the Indian economic landscape.
Considering that gender gaps persist not only in representation but also in wages, job satisfaction becomes a crucial indicator of the overall well-being and contentment of female professionals. A nuanced exploration of job satisfaction in the Indian scenario could uncover specific challenges related to workplace culture, gender biases, and opportunities for advancement, offering valuable insights for policymakers, organisations, and advocates working towards gender equality in the Indian workforce.
In navigating these complexities, it becomes imperative to bridge the gap in research and initiate a dialogue that addresses the unique challenges faced by women in economics-related professions in India. This, in turn, can contribute to the formulation of targeted strategies and policies aimed at creating a more inclusive and supportive environment for women pursuing careers in economics within the Indian context.
Indian women and the economics academia
Examining the situation in India, a country grappling with gender imbalances in various professional spheres, a parallel trend emerges. The representation of women in the academic landscape of economics showcases a discernible gender gap, which can be considered a key factor contributing to the lower rates of job satisfaction among female economists. A notable study conducted jointly by IIM Ahmedabad and The University of Manchester sheds light on this issue, focusing on the phenomenon of ‘missing‘ women in the economics academia in India.
The analysis encompassed a comprehensive survey of 120 prestigious institutions, revealing a stark underrepresentation of women in the realm of economics. Despite the diversity of these esteemed institutions, only a mere 28.5 percent of the Economics faculty members were found to be female. This statistic underscores a significant gender disparity within the academic landscape of economics, signaling potential challenges and barriers that impede the equal participation of women in this field.
Further delving into the scholarly contributions within the discipline, the study examined the authors of more than 1300 papers featured in the final schedule of a renowned annual research conference spanning the years 2004 to 2017. The results revealed a disconcerting pattern, with women constituting merely 29 percent of the authors during this extended period. This finding raises questions about the inclusivity and representation of diverse voices in the academic discourse of economics, as well as the potential factors contributing to the observed gender gap in research output.
The gender disparity persisted even in the publications of a leading Economic journal with a specific focus on India. Over the same time span, only 26 percent of the authors contributing to research published in this influential journal were women. This insight emphasises the challenges faced by female economists in gaining visibility and recognition for their work, particularly in journals with a regional focus. The lower representation of women in these scholarly outlets could reflect both institutional and systemic barriers that hinder the full participation of women in shaping economic discourse, both globally and within specific regional contexts like India.
The need to address the gaps
The cumulative data from these different facets of the study underscores the need for a concerted effort to address gender disparities within the field of economics. Initiatives promoting inclusivity, targeted mentorship programs for women in academia, and a reevaluation of institutional practices could collectively contribute to fostering a more equitable environment. These findings also highlight the importance of promoting diverse voices in economic research to ensure a comprehensive and representative understanding of economic phenomena.
The survey not only brings to light the diminishing job satisfaction among women in economics but also underscores the significant underrepresentation of full-time female economics professors and the declining rate of new female doctoral degree recipients in the field. This aspect is particularly crucial as it hints at systemic challenges that extend beyond workplace dynamics and delve into the structural aspects of the academic pipeline for women in economics.
The study’s findings suggest a concerning lack of female representation in India’s economics academia, pointing to barriers and challenges that hinder the full participation of women in this intellectual domain. The factors contributing to this gender gap may include cultural norms, biases in academic hiring and promotion practices, and limited mentorship opportunities for women pursuing careers in economics.
The underrepresentation of female economics professors and the declining number of new female doctoral degree recipients highlight a pipeline issue, indicating that fewer women are entering and progressing within the academic trajectory of economics. This structural challenge not only impacts the diversity of perspectives within the discipline but also raises questions about the overall inclusivity and fairness of opportunities in the academic realm.
Addressing the gender gap in India’s economics academia necessitates a comprehensive approach that encompasses efforts to dismantle institutional barriers, promote mentorship programs, and challenge societal norms that may dissuade women from pursuing careers in this field. Initiatives aimed at encouraging girls and young women to engage with economics as a discipline, coupled with targeted interventions to support the career progression of female academics, can contribute to creating a more equitable and fulfilling environment within the academic landscape of India.