In today’s society, it is safe to say that there have been serious strides made in terms of gender equality. While we are by no means equal, it is comforting to know that the seriousness of the gender gap has been acknowledged as a real issue. The gender wage gap has been the focus of many professionals in Hollywood and just recently 10 major companies, including Twitter and Barclays, went public with their gender parity issues, vowing to make changes. And while these strides are admirable, there are still many issues that women in the professional world are facing that aren’t attracting so much attention. One specific field that faces gender discrimination is in the seemingly male-driven field of economics.
Over the past few months, Justin Wolfers, an Australian and American economist, has published two articles in the New York Times regarding the way credit is given in his field. In “When Teamwork Doesn’t Work for Women,” Wolfers cites a study done by Heather Sarsons, an economist who is currently finishing up her dissertation at Harvard. Sarsons has found that women are suffering from a serious gender bias in terms of receiving the credit they deserve in situations where group work has been done. In the field of economics, being published is a highly crucial component to being offered tenure, the saying “publish or perish” absolutely applies here. Long story short, while women seem to be offered tenure equally when they publish alone, their chances greatly diminish when they work with others, especially men. When this happens, credit is often attributed to the men, because author’s names are listed alphabetically rather than in order of who did the majority of the work, revealing that there is in fact a gender bias in economics.
Wolfers also wrote an article in November regarding the lack of credit female economists receive called “Even Famous Female Economists Get No Respect.” He tackled the issue by focusing on a few different economic “power couples,” including a ridiculous story regarding Janet Yellen, chairwoman of the Federal Reserve and her husband, George Akerlof, a Noble Prize-winning economist. Apparently, Ralph Nader decided to write an open letter to Yellen regarding monetary policy, suggesting she sit down with her husband, and together decide what to do about it, even though he doesn’t even study that field of economics. Wolfers article continued with many other examples of men who received more credit than their wives on projects they had coauthored, often when their wives were the primary authors.
As a woman who will be entering the workforce within the next few years, I see a genuine issue with the gender bias that many professional fields continue to suffer with. While women should be speaking up, I can see how in a male-dominated field, that isn’t always easy. Besides that, this isn’t a matter of speaking up because it’s an issue of false assumptions. It’s great that women who choose to write solo are receiving just as much credit as men who make that choice. But a woman shouldn’t have to be the sole author of a project just because she’s nervous that if she were to work with a man, she wouldn’t receive her due credit. That’s ridiculous. Yet Ms. Sarsons findings are so important, because they prove that this is a real problem women are facing.
Though they still face criticism, I’m glad to see that people are able to speak up and fight gender inequalities in certain fields, such as Hollywood and politics, because it shows that America has changed. But I don’t think we will be able to say we’ve truly seen change until the women outside of the spotlight feel they have seen equality. Economics is a field that studies all subjects, including ones that are typically deemed feminine. There is no reason for people, including fellow economists, to assume that men are generally the first authors. I look forward to seeing how, and if, the field changes within the next few years as a new generation continues to infiltrate the workforce.