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Noah Smith

Economics Starts Reckoning With Its Gender Bias Problem

Acknowledging the issue was a first step. Changing the culture will be harder.
A woman. An economist. A Nobel winner. More needed.

A woman. An economist. A Nobel winner. More needed.

Source: Raveendran/AFP/Getty Images

The economics profession's gender problems came to the fore last year. A number of people had been speaking up about the issue for a while, but this time the concern really boiled over. The spark was a paper by then-undergraduate Alice Wu, highlighting sexist language in an anonymous internet forum used by some economists. But the profession’s gender issues run much deeper than a fringe of online trolls, and at the American Economic Association meeting this past weekend (economists’ big annual convention), those issues took center stage.

A very well-attended session at the conference featured several papers about the problem. Wu’s was one. Another was an analysis of male-centric language in economics textbooks. A third reported on ways to get more women to major in the discipline. But the most explosive paper was by Erin Hengel of the University of Liverpool. Its title: “Publishing While Female.”