Does Economics Have a Gender?

Research output: Contribution to journalDebate/Note/Editorial


We are pleased that our paper on gender balance in the economics profession incited a number of commentaries on "Why few women in economics?" ( all in May 2008 Econ Journal Watch). The commentators include one sociologist, one psychologist, and three non-traditional economists-making for great breadth. Here we address the issues that seem most important to us. Our paper provided original documentation of the low representation of women in academic economics in Sweden, and drew on other studies for Australia, Canada, Great Britain, and the United States. Across the five countries, the trends are remarkably similar. From being totally absent or having a very low presence among doctoral students in economics in the 1970s, women have since made significant gains. Today they account for about one third of the PhDs granted in the five countries. Nevertheless, that figure is lower than the percentage of women among the doctoral degrees as a whole, today approaching one half, and even more so compared to the share of women PhDs within the other social sciences. This brings out the question: Why is the representation of women in economics low relative to other fields? An answer must account for a second matter; namely, why we have seen a strong inflow of women to economics during recent decades-especially pronounced in Sweden during the 1990s and 2000s. We find that our commentators are more eager to point out explanations of why women would not be attracted to economics than to analyze the forces which have in fact enhanced women's interest in economics in recent years. Another issue is women's lack of progress in academic faculty rank, especially to full professor in economics. Despite women's inroads in economics, many countries still count only a handful of women full professors, their proportion in the five countries we studied ranging between 5 and 9 percent. Figures presented at the 2008 meeting of the American Economic Association (CSWEP 2008) show a rising female proportion of newly completed PhDs ( 35 percent), but lagging female shares of assistant and associate professors, and women full professors hovering around 8 percent.(3) Yet another question is whether it matters whether more women learn economics and gain position of influence in academic economics. Will it bring about any changes in economics or in society at large?


  • Christina Jonung
  • Ann-Charlotte Stahlberg
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Economics
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)60-72
JournalEcon Journal Watch
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Publication categoryResearch