gender and academics

From The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics, Online Edition, 2016
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Although women have reached parity and surpassed men in the attainment of bachelor’s degrees (Goldin et al., 2006; Ceci et al., 2014), their representation within academic departments and disciplines depends on the field and rank. Here, we review the literature about women in academia, focusing on the evidence from the economics literature, but supplementing it with notable studies from other disciplines. We also examine the special case of the economics profession, where – surprisingly – women’s progress has stagnated.
We start by describing the representation of women in science academia and its antecedents in higher education. Since, in mathematics-intensive sciences, the under-representation has its roots prior to the doctorate, we briefly summarise what is known about gender differences related to mathematics and science at earlier ages. In particular, we examine the impact of role models, bias and stereotype threat in explaining the differences. We then transition to research on gender differences in academic career outcomes, considering issues related to work–life balance and bias in the academic hiring process, in academic productivity, in promotion and in salaries. Finally, we discuss how policies influence the representation of women in academia.
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Although women have reached parity and surpassed men in the attainment of bachelor’s degrees (Goldin et al., 2006; Ceci et al., 2014), their representation within academic departments and disciplines depends on the field and rank. Here, we review the literature about women in academia, focusing on the evidence from the economics literature, but supplementing it with notable studies from other disciplines. We also examine the special case of the economics profession, where – surprisingly – women’s progress has stagnated.
We start by describing the representation of women in science academia and its antecedents in higher education. Since, in mathematics-intensive sciences, the under-representation has its roots prior to the doctorate, we briefly summarise what is known about gender differences related to mathematics and science at earlier ages. In particular, we examine the impact of role models, bias and stereotype threat in explaining the differences. We then transition to research on gender differences in academic career outcomes, considering issues related to work–life balance and bias in the academic hiring process, in academic productivity, in promotion and in salaries. Finally, we discuss how policies influence the representation of women in academia.

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What are the numbers?

Figure 1(a) shows the percentage of women among higher education faculty in the USA from the National Center for Education Statistics (IPEDS) for the years 2006 through 2011, for all fields combined. Women hold only about one-third of tenured faculty positions and somewhat less than half of tenure-track untenured faculty positions. On the other hand, women are substantially over-represented among non-tenured, non-tenure-track faculty (since all faculty together average more than 50%).
Figure 1(b) shows the percentage of women among researchers in higher education in selected OECD countries from 2000–2014 for all fields combined. As of 2014, women made up 45% of all researchers in higher education in the UK and Sweden, 41% in Spain, 40% in Italy, 38% in Germany, 33% in France and 25% in Japan. In both the USA and these countries, the representation of women in academia has been remarkably stable over the past decade.
It would be ideal to have longer time-trends and field-specific data. Unfortunately, we can only do this comprehensively for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines, where considerable data is available for the USA from the National Science Foundation. As shown in Figure 2(a), while the percentage of women has been increasing in all fields, women exceed 50% of tenure-stream academics only in psychology. They are at 43% in social sciences (excluding economics) and 30% or less in all other STEM fields. For humanities, we can only use labour force surveys that do not distinguish among faculty ranks. These indicate a constant 50% female among postsecondary humanities faculty in the 1990s and 2000s (see
Figure 2(b) shows the percentage of women researchers in the natural sciences in selected OECD countries from 2000–2014. With the exception of Sweden, we observe an increase in the representation of women between 2000 and now. The 2013/2014 percentages of women in Sweden, the UK, Spain and Italy are remarkably similar at 38–41%. In Germany and Japan, the percentages of women have increased over the past decade and a half, but are currently only 33% and 22% respectively.
Were the fields that are underrepresented in US academia similarly under-represented among US PhDs? Figure 3(a) shows that the percentage of women among PhDs has increased dramatically in all fields over this period. Women currently hold the majority of PhDs granted in Life Sciences, Psychology, Other Social Science (except economics) and Humanities, and more than 30% in other STEM fields, except for engineering and computer science. These numbers are clearly higher than the current female percentage among tenured faculty. However, that is an incorrect comparison. Tenured faculty 2006–2011 would have received their PhDs in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, when the average percentage of women among PhDs was 27%. Comparing this percentage to the approximately one-third women among tenured faculty suggests that women PhDs were equally or somewhat more likely than men to become tenured academics. Similarly, tenure-track untenured faculty 2006–2011 would have received PhDs between 1995 and 2010, when the percentage of women among PhDs awarded averaged 39%. This suggests that women PhDs during this period were actually more likely than men to be in tenure-track jobs.
For the sciences, we can more accurately measure whether women and men PhDs proceed to tenure-stream jobs at similar rates. Using the data in Figure 2, in Ceci et al. (2014) we matched field-specific rates of PhDs to their rate of holding tenure-stream jobs seven years later, and found that in mathematics-intensive sciences the proportion of PhDs who entered tenure-track jobs was similar for men and women; however, for the life and behavioural sciences (life, psychology, social sciences excluding economics), lower percentages of women than men entered academic tenure-track jobs. For humanities as a whole, the constant 50% of women among postsecondary faculty in the 1990s and 2000s was quite similar to the percentage of women among PhDs granted in the 1990s and 2000s and higher than the percentage of women among PhDs granted in earlier decades. We thus conclude that progression from PhD to tenure-track and tenured jobs is currently similar for men and women for all fields except the life and behavioural sciences.
These findings suggest that under-representation in more mathematics-intensive fields starts earlier in people’s lives. Figure 3(b) shows the gender breakdown by discipline in bachelor’s degrees in the USA. Starting in the 1980s and 1990s, women received the majority of bachelor’s degrees in psychology, humanities, social sciences (excluding economics) and life sciences. They also greatly increased their share of bachelor’s degrees in other sciences, and since 2000 have earned over 40% of bachelor’s degrees in all disciplines except engineering, economics and computer science. Goldin et al. (2006) found that much of this relative increase in women’s college completion rate was attributable to the improvement in college preparation of girls relative to boys (especially in STEM), which itself was probably due to women’s increased expected returns from going to college.
Are men and women equally likely to proceed from bachelor’s degrees to PhDs, assuming a seven-year time gap? The percentage of women among PhDs was lower than for corresponding bachelor’s degrees in the earlier decades shown, but recently this gap has narrowed in all fields (also found by Chiswick et al., 2010). Most recently, the percentage of women among PhDs versus bachelor’s degrees seven years earlier was the same for mathematics-intensive sciences, but lower in the humanities and life and behavioural sciences (in humanities, compare 52% women among PhDs to 63% women among bachelor’s degrees seven years earlier; in the life and behavioural sciences, compare 58% among PhDs but 65% among bachelor’s degrees).
Where did these women go instead? In the life and behavioural sciences, Ceci et al. (2014) found that more women than men had master’s degrees (27% v. 21.8%) and professional degrees (9.1% v. 7.9%). However, fewer women than men (38.2% v. 45.5%) stopped their education after attaining a bachelor’s degree.
The numbers lead us to conclude that in the USA there is a larger drop-off of women than men in the transition from BA to PhD in the fields where women are more common (humanities, life and behavioural sciences), but not in mathematics-intensive fields. There is no gender difference in the transition from PhD to tenure-track academia in mathematics-intensive sciences and humanities, whereas in life and behavioural sciences the drop-off from PhDs to tenure-stream academia is greater for women.
Since the under-representation of women in mathematics-intensive STEM fields has its roots even earlier than college, we next describe the literature on some factors explaining this underrepresentation.
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Gender differences in K-12 and undergraduate educational outcomes

Mathematics is considered the gatekeeper to careers in STEM disciplines (Ceci et al., 2014; Lavy and Sand, 2015). On average, in the USA girls score better than boys in mathematics in some grades (4–9) but not in high school, although high school average gaps have dropped rapidly to less than one-tenth of a standard deviation (Hyde and Mertz, 2009); gender differences at the top tail of the high school mathematics distribution have also dropped rapidly (from 1:13.5 to 1:3.8; Wai et al., 2010), but remain high. Yet research shows that environmental factors and context play a role in gender differences in mathematics performance. Ellison and Swanson (2010) found variation in the gender gap across schools. Pope and Sydnor (2010) found state geographic variation in gender test gaps, at the state level. Else-Quest et al. (2010), Penner (2008) and others found trans-national variation.
One explanation for the differences in girls’ and boys’ early mathematics and science attainment relates to instructor gender. For middle school students, Dee (2005, 2007) found that assignment to a same gender teacher improved both boys’ and girls’ achievement as well as teachers’ perception of students and students’ engagement, in all subjects. Ehrenberg et al. (1995) found that same-gender teachers did not affect learning but influenced teachers’ subjective evaluation of students in mathematics, science and reading. Antecol et al. (2012) found marginal positive effects on female students’ mathematics scores only for female instructors with strong mathematical backgrounds, no effect on their reading scores, and no impact of male instructors on male students at all. More recently, Lavy and Sand (2015) found that girls in Israel with elementary and middle school teachers biased against girls in mathematics took fewer high school mathematics and science courses and were less likely to major in mathematics and science in college or work in STEM.
Same-gender role model effects extend to college. Using randomly assigned students, Carrell et al. (2010) found that female instructors in male-dominated STEM fields improved female students’ performance in mathematics and science classes and the likelihood of taking future STEM classes and majoring in STEM, with the results greatest for top students. Based on a natural experiment, Griffith (2014) found that same-gender instructors improved students’ performance only in fields traditionally dominated by the opposite gender, but had no effect on major choice or course-taking behaviour. Observational studies – without random assignment of students – have mostly found that female instructors improved female students’ outcomes (Rask and Bailey, 2002; Hoffman and Oreopoulos, 2009; Bettinger and Long, 2005), but did not affect the registration choices of most students (McGoldrick and Schuhmann, 2002; Canes and Rosen, 1995). Ashworth and Evans (2001) found that female students were more likely to study economics when there was a critical mass of other female students and/or a female teacher.
Female role models were also important in observational studies at the graduate level. In economics, Hale and Regev (2014) found a positive correlation between the number of female faculty and the number of female graduates six years later, suggesting that women graduate students were attracted to and/or encouraged by women faculty. Dolado et al. (2012) found greater shares of women in a given economics sub-field to be correlated with greater probability of women later choosing that field.
Research has also examined how gender differences in response to competition play a role in mathematics-related outcomes. Niederle and Vesterlund (2010) argue that gender differences in mathematics test scores may indicate different responses to competitive pressures associated with test-taking. Cotton et al. (2013) find results consistent with that argument in five sequential mathematics contests among elementary-school children. Boys scored higher in the first round than girls, but only when there was time pressure. Girls scored better in later rounds. Landaud et al. (2016) found that girls enrolled in to more competitive high schools in France were significantly less likely to choose a high school mathematics or science major.
In economics, some have argued that teaching methods decrease female interest in the subject. Bansak and Starr (2010) found that students viewed economics as a business-oriented field that emphasised mathematical skills and money-making, which decreased women’s interest relative to men’s. Similarly, Lewis and McGoldrick (2001) argue that reformulating standards might allow for a more inclusive classroom. A current randomised trial headed by Claudia Goldin is experimenting with multiple interventions associated with mentoring of female students and curriculum changes in order to increase the number of women majoring in economics (
A final gender difference in the decision to get a PhD relates to the macroeconomy. Bedard and Herman (2008) found that women’s decisions to attend graduate school were acyclical, while men’s decisions were counter-cyclical, so that when macroeconomic conditions worsened, the lower opportunity cost of attending graduate school increased men’s (but not women’s) enrolment. Chiswick et al. (2010) also found that men’s doctorate enrolment increased with unemployment. Conley et al. (2016) found that men who entered economics graduate school in periods with few outside opportunities (high unemployment) later had higher research productivity, but women who entered then had lower research productivity, and offered a similar cyclical selection explanation.
Before leaving the education topic, we note that Leslie et al. (2015) tried to link PhD attainment to faculty attitudes in the discipline, finding that in disciplines where expectations of brilliance are viewed as the key to success – as opposed to hard work – women were less likely to obtain doctorates. However, Ginther and Kahn (2015) show that once the mathematics requirements of a particular discipline are included in their analysis, these expectations have no explanatory power.
Thus, the association between gender norms, role models and mathematics/STEM plays a role in determining educational outcomes and choices from middle school to PhD, giving rise to the observed gender differences in academic careers. We next turn to how women fare once they enter tenure-stream academic jobs.
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Gender differences in tenure-stream positions

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As described above, the proportion of women with tenure-track positions in the life and behavioural sciences is lower than might be expected based on the number of doctorate degrees awarded. Was this due to women not being offered academic positions, or to their choices to opt out of academic positions?
Using data from the department chairs of six STEM departments at Research I universities from the early 2000s, a National Research Council study (2010) indicated that, conditional on applying, women were more likely to get an interview and more likely to receive job offers in all six departments. Also, the percentage of applications from women was consistently lower than the percentage of PhDs earned by women. These same results were found for both assistant tenure-track positions and more senior tenured positions.
This does not necessarily rule out bias in the interview and hiring process, since if on average women applicants are more qualified than male applicants, the proportion of women receiving interview and job offers might understate bias. Recent experimental studies on the role of bias in potential hires have produced contradictory results. In a relatively small sample, Moss-Racusin et al. (2012) found that science faculty evaluating hypothetical identically qualified graduate students evaluated the men as more competent; they were more likely to be hired as well as being given higher starting salaries. Williams and Ceci (2015) found the opposite, also in an experimental setting but with a larger sample. They had faculty evaluate hypothetical equally qualified male and female applicants for assistant professor positions in biology, engineering, economics and psychology at different institution types nationwide. In most cases, both male and female faculty preferred female applicants over identically qualified males with matching lifestyles. The exception, showing a male preference, was male economists. The average preference for women was significant within five of six categories of family status (e.g. married without children).
Outside the USA, Krause et al. (2012) conducted an experiment randomly assigning applications of PhD economists for a postdoctoral position at a European research institute to a treatment group whose applications removed information on name, age, gender and nationality versus controls with this information included. In the control group, but not in the treatment group, women applicants received more interviews than men. Using the difference in French teacher accreditation exam scores between written (gender-unknown) and oral (gender-known) as a natural experiment, Breda and Hillion (2016) showed that the gender under-represented in that field was systematically favoured when gender was known.
Thus, all in all, there is little evidence of bias against women and some indication of bias towards women in the hiring process in academia when the person's record is known.
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Opting out
Clearly, women’s decision not to pursue tenure-stream positions affects their representation in academia. Evidence of fewer applications yet slight advantages in hiring and interviewing are consistent with the argument that relatively more women are opting out of academia. Ley and Hamilton (2008) examined women’s attrition in biomedical sciences at US medical schools. A roughly equal share of women were admitted to medical schools (51%) and working as instructors at medical schools (49%). The percentage of women dropped, however, at later stages of the traditional academic career track (39% assistant level, 25% associate level, 17% full level). They found that women in biomedical fields were not applying for NIH funding at the independent research stage (in between the postdoc and a tenure-stream appointment). Ginther and Kahn (2009) looked at the probability of STEM PhDs holding a tenure-track job within nine years of graduating. They found that married women with children were significantly less likely to take tenure track positions. Ginther and Kahn (2015) repeated this analysis for social and behavioural science fields, finding very similar results. Wolfinger et al. (2008) also found that women with children during the first five years post-PhD are considerably less likely than men to choose tenure-track jobs.
Institutional factors may also play a role in the gender diversity of the faculty. Ehrenberg et al. (2012) found that having more women in high-ranking administrative positions (trustees, presidents/chancellors and provosts/academic vice-presidents) was associated with having more women on the faculty between 1984 and 2007, with the largest gains appearing at smaller institutions.
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Economists have examined gender differences in jobs after the PhD. Chen et al. (2012) report that compared to males, female candidates were more likely to be in government or private sector jobs and less likely to end up in academic jobs. Hilmer and Hilmer (2007) found that females with male advisors were more likely to accept research-oriented first jobs than males with male advisors. They found no significant difference between females working with male versus female advisors.
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Once in academic positions, productivity – measured by publications, citations and research funding – is key to securing tenure and remaining employed in the academy. Across academic fields, almost all research shows that women write fewer papers, but on average have the same number of citations per paper (see Ceci et al. (2014) for a review of the literature). There is some evidence that gender differences in productivity are converging (Borrego et al., 2010). Gender differences in productivity have often been cited as the leading explanation for gender differences in salaries in the general labour market (Altonji and Blank, 1999). Economists have probed whether these productivity differences are due to gender differences in time use, the impact of having children, professional networks, number of co-authors, access to institutional resources and support, and likelihood of specialising.
Women may be less productive because they devote less time to work (Bellas and Toukoushian, 1999). Ceci et al. (2014) found that women and men in STEM tenure-stream positions work the same number of hours. However, women with children published significantly fewer papers than men with children in geoscience, economics, physical, and life and social science disciplines. In contrast, there were no significant gender gaps in publications for women and men without children in life science or social science – suggesting that time devoted to caring for one’s family may contribute to the gender gap in publications. Krapf et al. (2014) compared the research productivity of economists and found a negative effect of parenthood for unmarried mothers, and a positive impact for unmarried fathers. They also found evidence that becoming a mother before the age of 30 had a negative impact on women’s research productivity. Joecks et al. (2014) examined 400 researchers in business and economics in Austria, Germany and Switzerland. They found evidence that only the most productive mothers self-select into academic research careers.
Time use was also a factor in Manchester and Barbezat’s (2013) study of economics faculty. There, gender differences in both time allocation (division of time between research and other duties) and time concentration (distribution of time during the academic year relative to summer) contributed to women submitting fewer papers, with concentration being most important.
Non-research obligations may also influence research productivity. Taylor et al. (2006) found that teaching and service have significant negative impacts on research productivity of academic economists. Harter et al. (2010) found that in the USA, male economics faculty – particularly at the assistant professor level in research universities – spent less time on teaching and more time on research than female faculty.
Women may also be less productive because of fewer resources. Duch et al. (2012) showed that fields that required significant research resources (such as molecular biology) also had a larger gender gap in publications. However, gender differences in research awards are negligible. Ginther et al. (2016) and Ley and Hamilton (2008) find that women are equally or somewhat more likely to receive NIH R01 Type 1 research awards; however, women are disadvantaged in receiving additional funding of the same research topic – NIH R01 Type 2 research awards (Ley and Hamilton 2008). Furthermore, women submit fewer research proposals than men (Ginther et al., 2016; Ley and Hamilton, 2008). Sege et al. (2015) found women researchers in a major medical school had less start-up support than men.
Gender differences in co-authorship contributes to gender differences in productivity in economics. Hamermesh (2013) has noted the increasing importance and reliance on co-authorship in economics profession. Others have found that co-authorship among economists appeared to increase the overall production of articles for both men and women (Maske et al., 2003; Cainelli et al., 2015, 2012). Research shows that economists tend to co-author with those in their gender (McDowell and Smith, 1992; McDowell et al., 2006; Boschini and Sjogren, 2007). Given the under-representation of women in the economics profession, this would provide one potential explanation for why women publish fewer papers, at least in economics.
However, email and internet technology may level the playing field. Butler and Butler (2011) found that for academics in political science, technological change led women to increase their rate of co-authorship faster than men in the 1990s and made women more willing to take jobs at smaller departments because collaboration across universities was more possible. Similarly, Ding et al. (2010) found that IT availability increased research output and co-authorships for women at non-elite institutions, more than for men or for both genders at elite institutions.
Biased evaluations of work could also play a role in differences in publication numbers. However, research shows no gender differences in journal acceptance rates in economics (Blank, 1996; Abrevaya and Hammermesh, 2012) nor in other disciplines (Ceci et al., 2014). An experiment found no effect of blind review on gender differences in acceptance rates for a Swedish economics conference (Carlsson et al., 2012).
Thus we find that women publish fewer papers than men, and these productivity differences are associated with the presence of children, time use during and across the academic year, research funding and co-authorship patterns. Technology has mitigated some of the co-authorship disadvantage, but women still lag behind men in this important measure of academic careers.
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In the USA, gender differences in academic promotion depend upon the field of study. Ginther and Kahn (2009) found that after controlling for research productivity and other factors, women were equally likely to receive tenure in physical science and engineering fields, but not life sciences. Ginther and Kahn (2015) found that women were significantly less likely to receive tenure in economics, but not other social sciences, and significantly less likely to be promoted to full professor in economics, sociology and linguistics. In earlier work, women were less likely to be promoted in the humanities (Ginther and Hayes, 1999, 2003). McDowell et al. (1999, 2001) found promotion prospects significantly improved for female economists by the end of the 1980s. However, Kahn’s (1993, 1995) results found the opposite, and examining more recent data (Ginther and Kahn, 2004, 2015) found large promotion gaps for women in economics.
Academic promotion differs considerably across countries. In several cases, promotion differences were due to productivity. Schulze et al. (2008) found that gender and children did not matter for the probability of being tenured after controlling for productivity in Germany, Austria and the German-speaking part of Switzerland. Groeneveld et al. (2012) found that in a large Dutch university, academic women’s lower promotion rates were explained by years of service and external mobility. Lissoni et al. (2011) found that Italian academic women are as likely to be promoted as men with similar publication records. Danell and Hjerm (2013) found that women were significantly less likely than men to become full professors in Sweden, but less so among those who had previously held postdoctoral fellowships, suggesting that promotion may reflect ability.
In other countries, promotion differences remain even after controlling for productivity. Takahashi and Takahashi (2015) found that in Japan, women were substantially more likely to remain in lower-level lecturer positions. At higher levels they found women with children were less likely than comparable men to be promoted from associate professor to full professor, but single childless women were more likely to be promoted. Examining women in the UK, Ward (2001b) found that even after controlling for career breaks and publication history, male academics are more likely to be promoted.
Results for France are mixed. Lissoni et al. (2011) found that equally productive French women were less likely than men to be promoted. Similarly, controlling for productivity, Sabatier (2010) found that female biologists in France were promoted significantly more slowly than males and that different factors affected promotion likelihood for men and women. Also in France, Bosquet et al. (2014) found that in a national competition for promotion of economists, gender has no significant effect on promotion, but women were significantly less likely to be candidates for promotion.
Austen (2004), Cooray et al. (2014) and Kahn (2012) found that similar Australian women academics were less likely to be promoted than men, although Kahn (2012) found that women were more likely to be promoted after taking workshops on applying for promotions. In Australia, faculty must apply for promotion, and Kahn (2012) argued that the earlier promotion gap was due to women’s lower application rates.
Finally, applying for promotion was also key in Italy. De Paola et al. (2015a) examined the multi-step Italian promotion system and found that women and men were equally likely to score well on the (anonymous) qualifying exam, but that qualified women were significantly less likely to apply for open positions than men. In Italy and Spain, there is also a (non-anonymised) oral exam by a randomly assigned evaluation committee. De Paola et al. (2015, 2016), Bagues et al. (2015) and Zinovyeva and Bagues (2011) find conflicting results on whether the evaluation committee gender composition leads to most favourable results for women.
In sum, we find mixed results on promotion. In some fields – primarily economics and life sciences, and in some countries including Japan, the UK and perhaps France or Australia – women are less likely to be promoted than men. Some, but not all, of this gap can be explained by gender differences in productivity or in applying for promotion. In the USA, economics is one field where women are significantly less likely to be promoted than men at all levels, even after controlling for the publication record.
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Women are paid less than men in academia (; Toutkoushian et al., 2007), and this has been documented extensively over time (Barbezat, 1987a,b; Broder, 1993; Ferber and Kordick, 1978; Gordon et al., 1974; Robinson and Monks, 1999). Factors used to explain the gender gap in salaries include field and academic rank, productivity, parenthood and returns to seniority/monopsony.
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Field and rank
Field and rank are the most important explanations of salary gaps, because men are concentrated in higher-paying fields and are concentrated in the higher ranks (Ginther, 2004). Failure to control for those factors will result in an overstated salary gap. Similarly, teaching-intensive institutions pay less than research-intensive institutions. Ginther and Hayes (1999, 2003) found no gender difference in salaries in the humanities within academic ranks. International evidence also points to the importance of field and rank. Warman et al. (2010) found that the gender earnings gap at Canadian universities had narrowed, and the bulk of the remaining gender gap could be explained by differences in men’s and women’s rank and field. Kaszubowski and Wolszczak-Derlacz (2014) found that gender differences in salary were mostly due to academic rank in Polish academia.
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Rank is endogenous and could be due to lower academic productivity of women. Hilmer et al. (2012) found that in doctoral-granting economics departments in large public universities in the USA, research influence (measured by citations) was a strong predictor of salary, as was departmental prestige. After controlling for these factors, they found no significant impact of gender on salaries. Ward (2001a) and Euwals and Ward (2005) found that in the UK, time out of the profession results in a large financial penalty, and that career gaps along with productivity could explain the gender salary gap.
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Parenthood penalty
As discussed above, having children might decrease salaries due to lower productivity, or for other reasons. Manchester et al. (2010, 2013) examined the impact of stopping the tenure clock on both promotion and salaries. They found that stopping the tenure clock had no impact on promotion, but did result in a significant salary penalty. In recent work, Kahn and Ginther (2016) found that marriage and children have less of a negative impact on women’s STEM academic salaries than for women with the same degrees working outside academia.
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In many cases a given geographic location has only one university, and that university holds monopsony power over its current faculty. Several researchers have found that the returns to seniority are negative for faculty (salary inversion) (Ransom, 1993; Hallock, 1995; Bratsberg et al., 2010; Brown and Woodbury, 1998); however, Barbezat and Donihue (1998) found the opposite. Monopsony power can exacerbate gender salary differences if men are more likely to receive outside offers than women or women are less likely to move. Hilmer and Hilmer (2010) found that the seniority penalty for women economists was nearly double that of men, and that men earn higher salaries with each move while women’s salaries only increase with two or more moves. Barbezat and Hughes (2005) found that women experienced an 8% salary penalty for moving to a second job. In the UK, Blackaby et al. (2005) found a within-rank gender pay gap among academic economists that they suggest may be due to women’s lower likelihood of receiving outside offers.
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Remaining gaps
In other cases, while controls for the above factors narrowed the salary gap, they did not erase them. In the natural sciences, Ginther (2004) found small salary gaps at the assistant professor rank that grew for the associate and full professor ranks. These gaps were not fully explained by field, marital status, children or productivity. Takahashi and Takahashi (2015) found that Japanese women economists were paid significantly less within academic ranks, despite rigid pay schedules. Some of the pay gap may result from women being hired at lower wages when they start (Toumanoff 2005). Of particular concern are gender differences in evaluation: in a study of a large US public research university, Carlin et al. (2013) found that both subjective and objective productivity measures increased men’s salaries, but did not increase women’s. Finally, sometimes, gender pay gaps were more complicated. At a large US public university, Binder et al. (2010) found that, controlling for productivity, the largest gender salary gaps were in departments with low concentrations of women, suggesting that decentralised salary setting in departments may serve to depress women’s salaries.
In sum, women choose lower-paid academic fields and are also more prevalent in the lower academic ranks, two factors that explain much of the overall gender salary gap in academia. Other choices by women, such as productivity and parenthood, serve to exacerbate the gender salary gap. That said, institutional factors exacerbate gender differences in salaries. Wage-setting institutions at the department level and the monopsonistic market faced by many in academia reinforce the gender wage gap.
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Other outcomes

We briefly mention a few additional outcomes. Mixon and Trevino (2005) found that women were significantly less likely to have a named professorship in economics departments in the US South. In Italy, Addis and Villa (2003) found that women were less likely to serve on the editorial boards of economics journals. In contrast, Donald and Hamermesh (2006) found that women were more likely to win American Economic Association elections.
Ceci et al. (2014) found that women’s job satisfaction with academic careers converged with men’s between 1997 and 2010, with the exception of social sciences and economics, where the gap grew and women were less satisfied. Bender and Heywood (2006) found that women’s satisfaction in academic science matched men’s. Ward and Sloane (2000) find that job satisfaction does not differ by gender in Scottish universities.
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Potential interventions

We have documented gender differences in productivity, promotion and salaries in academic careers. In some cases, these differences can be readily explained by the family, monopsony, resources, co-author networks and other factors; in other cases we cannot rule out gender differences in how women are treated and evaluated during their academic careers. Economists have begun addressing gender differences in academic careers through the CeMENT mentoring trial for junior economics faculty at research institutions. Starting in 2004, the CeMENT trial randomly assigned junior female economists to a mentoring treatment workshop or a control group without mentoring. An interim evaluation of CeMENT by Blau et al. (2010) showed that women in the treatment group published more papers, published more in the highest ranked journals and were more successful in obtaining federal research funding. Based on CeMENT’s success, mentoring programmes have been started in the economics profession in Africa, China and Japan, as well as in academic philosophy (
Universities in the USA have adopted policies for parents to stop the tenure clock in the case of birth or adoption. Manchester et al. (2010, 2013) found that these policies had no impact on women’s promotion, but had a negative impact on salaries at one Midwestern university. However, Antecol et al. (2016) found that, in the top 50 US economics departments, gender-neutral stop-clock policies reduced female tenure rates while significantly increasing male tenure rates.
Others have advocated for training in unconscious bias as a means of combatting gender differences in academic careers. Carnes et al. (2015) ran a randomised controlled trial of bias training at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and found that gender bias was reduced in treated departments. However, their study did not evaluate whether the reduction of gender bias influenced gender differences in academic outcomes such as hiring and promotion. In the private sector, this kind of bias training has not promoted diversity (Dobbin et al., 2012; Kalev et al., 2006), although Bohnet et al. (2015) found evidence that joint evaluation by a committee allowed evaluators to focus on performance and reduced gender bias.
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The status of women in the academy depends critically on the country and academic field. Although in the USA women earn more than half of both bachelor’s and PhD degrees awarded in the humanities, life, behavioural and social sciences (excluding economics), they are less likely than men to transition from bachelor’s to doctorates to tenure-stream faculty positions in these fields. In contrast, we find that women have made significant gains in mathematics-intensive science doctorates and are somewhat more likely than men to transition from PhD to academic careers in those fields. The under-representation of women in mathematics-intensive fields has its roots prior to college, and much of it can be attributed to gender differences in role models and gender norms in mathematics.
The data and experimental evidence do not show evidence of bias against women in academic hiring. Instead, there is some evidence of a preference for more female faculty. Once in tenure-stream academic positions, however, women publish fewer papers, although they have the same number of citations per paper as men. Several inter-related factors contribute to women’s lower productivity. Having children lowers the number of publications for both men and women, but more for women. Women devote less time to research than men, in part because they are more likely to be employed at teaching-intensive institutions. Co-authorship increases the rate of productivity, but women are more likely to co-author with other women and in fields like economics they will have fewer opportunities to do so. Resources may also matter – women are less likely to receive grant renewals in biomedical fields – and their productivity suffers in these relatively expensive disciplines.
Productivity is a key determinant of both promotion and salaries, but even after controlling for productivity women are less likely in some fields (e.g. economics, life sciences) and in many countries (Japan, UK etc.) to be promoted. Women’s pay also suffers relative to men’s. Some of this can be explained by productivity, presence of children, field and academic rank. Yet there is also evidence that given similar levels of productivity, women’s evaluations suffer, leading to lower salaries over time (Carlin et al., 2013). The fact that most academic employers are monopsonists can lead to significant gender salary differences if women are less likely to receive outside offers or less likely to move.
Stopping the tenure clock has not been shown to increase women’s promotion rates, and instead may decrease it. When we combine this with the gender differences in how women’s research is evaluated by their peers, then attention to evaluation and its implications for salary and promotion are warranted.
Interventions such as the CeMENT mentoring treatment have been successful at increasing women’s productivity in the economics profession. It remains to be seen whether CeMENT will successfully narrow the gender promotion gaps in the economics profession. Although women have made considerable strides in academic careers, progress has been uneven across disciplines and countries.
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How to cite this article

Ginther, Donna K., Shulamit Kahn and Jessica McCloskey. "gender and academics." The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics. Online Edition. Eds. Steven N. Durlauf and Lawrence E. Blume. Palgrave Macmillan, 2016. The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics Online. Palgrave Macmillan. 15 December 2017 <> doi:10.1057/10.1057/9780230226203.3967

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