Recently I posted (Do Women and Economics Mix?) about a new initiative to mentor young women in the world of academic economics. This week Karen Schucan-Bird wrote about her research into women in the social sciences, including economics, on the LSE Impact Blog. She found that in the ‘masculine’ social sciences including economics, women published articles relevant to the REF less than in proportion to their representation:
“Whilst women made up 24 per cent of political scientists in the UK, they only contributed 8 per cent of the articles sampled. In economics women constituted 22 per cent of academics whilst writing 13 per cent of the sampled articles.”
She adds that the gap in economics was not statistically significant, but I assume this reflects the small sample size – as Deirdre McCloskey says, there’s statistical significance and real significance.
The pattern did not hold in psychology and social policy, where more than 40% of the academics are female, and around the same proportion of the papers in the sample were female-authored.
The fact that there are pronounced differences between different social sciences in this respect suggests that the explanation cannot lie in general academic structures but in features specific to economics and political science. The possible explanations for a lower proportion of women in those fields in the first place seem to be either the intellectual character of the subject, and/or the sociology of the subject and in particular peer effects and promotion channels; while the under-achievement of women in terms of publication surely is the result of the specifics of the REF for those subjects and the way the featured journals are edited? Peer review seems to me as an outsider a seriously flawed process.
Having said all this, I’ve not worked in academia and would be interested in better informed perspectives.