Posting a link to Noah Smith’s Bloomberg View article on women in economics sparked a very interesting, and sometimes heated, discussion on my Facebook page. I especially like Robert Flood’s argument that things will get better because there is a market opportunity: an economics department could rise in the ranks (according to where judgments are headed in the future as the total number of women in economics increases) by hiring more women. I think there is some truth to this. If I went to a currently somewhat obscure economics department as department chair, with a big pile of money for hiring, I think the best chance to ultimately move that department up in the rankings would be to get a reputation of being very friendly to female economists, starting with making offers to many women at once. Just like there are departments that draw strength from having many econometricians–far above the percentage of econometricians in the profession overall, I think a department could draw reputational strength from having 55% women. The idea is that they would come in part for the agglomeration benefits of being in a department with many other female economists, especially if the women in that 55% and the men in the other 45% were also chosen in part for being especially good people and so likely to be supportive of others, including junior colleagues.
(The other thing I would do would be to focus on new modes of teaching, such as flipped classes and intensive writing like what I have students do in my Monetary and Financial Theory class.)
By the way, don’t miss my new column on women in economics, “How big is the sexism problem in economics? This article’s co-author is anonymous because of it,” coauthored with a female economist who chose to remain anonymous.