Sunday, 30 July 2017

More on the gender gap in economics

Last month I wrote a post on the gender gap in economics. A couple of other sources has since come to my attention, starting with this speech by Luci Ellis, who is Assistant Governor (Economic) at the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA). RBA has come under fire recently for its gender gap. Ellis paints a picture that looks very similar to the situation in New Zealand:
Unfortunately, both in general and for female students, economics is not exactly popular in Australia... for economics, the share of female university students has always been much lower and appears to have fallen further more recently. Even more concerning is that total student numbers in economics appear to have fallen at our universities over the past couple of decades, though some data show a small pick-up more recently.
The picture is even worse at school level... From what we understand, when business studies subjects were introduced, they expanded at the expense of economics.
Those trends are very similar in New Zealand, and especially the growth of business studies at the expense of economics at high school. Ellis makes a good point though, which is also true here:
Of course, it is not essential to have studied economics at school to select it as a major at university.
She argues that mathematics is another pathway, but I would say that even mathematics is not a strict requirement (although aversion to mathematics would be very unhelpful). I can think of many very good economics students who started with no background in economics or strong background in mathematics or statistics. Despite that, Ellis makes many good points, and I encourage you to read the speech in its entirety, especially if you want to understand some of the key points related to the gender gap in occupations more generally.

The second source is this blog post by Leith Thompson, who writes:
In 2016 the Reserve Bank asked me to do some research on how to encourage female students into the field by creating a more inclusive economics...
We don’t just need to encourage female students to study economics, but we also need to adopt innovative, best practice pedagogy that inclusively encourages all students to embrace economics.
Thompson's solutions don't seem to me to be necessarily focused on encouraging more female students to study economics, but seem to be good practice for all students. Clearly, we still have more work to do, and hopefully my Summer Research Scholarship student this coming summer will help us understand this problem further. We also have a group of very keen students at Waikato who are looking at trialing an intervention with high school students, and I hope to have an update on that sometime in the future as well.

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  1. I think intervention with highschool students. Maybe have a look at what computer science have done to fix the gender gap. Organisations such as CodeClub, Django Girls etc.