Male referees reviewing submissions for economics conferences are significantly more likely to accept papers written by other men, a new study reveals.
Research due to be presented at the annual congress of the European Economic Association in Manchester on 28 August shows that papers with all-female author lists were 11.5 per cent less likely to be accepted than male-authored papers. Even once factors such as the reputation of the authors and their institution were controlled for, a 6.8 per cent gap remained.
Researchers Laura Hospido and Carlos Sanz found that the gap was explained entirely by the behaviour of male referees because female reviewers showed no such gender bias.
They based their analysis on 9,342 submissions to three major economics conferences – the EEA (2015-17), the annual meeting of the Spanish Economic Association (2012-17) and the Spring Meeting of Young Economists (2017).
Each conference had a similar evaluation procedure with a board assigning papers to referees to evaluate and grade them.
Dr Hospido and Dr Sanz, both economists at the Banco de España, write that male economists are “better connected” than their female counterparts and this “personal bond” probably explains men’s preferences.
“Apart from the paper itself, knowledge of the authors and their prior contributions might be used by reviewers as additional relevant signals of the quality of the submission,” Dr Hospido told Times Higher Education.
Papers with a majority of male authors were more likely to be accepted than papers with a majority of female authors, the study found.
Dr Hospido said that there was “growing concern” about why female representation in economics had “stagnated in the last decade”.
A gender gap in accepting papers could have a “substantial impact” on the careers of female economists and on their ability to improve their representation, since attending conferences was an “essential part of academic life” and offered opportunities to network with fellow academics, Dr Hospido said.
“Having less opportunity to participate in conferences may have detrimental effects for women as the evidence shows that attending these kinds of meetings is beneficial in terms of research outcomes in the future,” she said.
Having a “more gender balanced scientific committee would be a first step” towards a level playing field, Dr Hospido added. To that end, the Spanish Economic Association recently decided that future meetings will have a gender balanced panel of referees.
Print headline: Old-boy club sidelines female economists’ work