Female fillip for male bastion

May 10, 1996

The traditionally male-dominated discipline of economics is set to attack its gender gap with the creation of a new Royal Economic Society committee.

The RES executive, which meets next Thursday, will discuss plans for a committee on women in economics. A meeting to discuss the idea was held at the RES annual conference last month in Swansea.

Denise Osborn, professor of economics at Manchester University, who chaired the Swansea meeting, said that a similar committee had been very successful in raising the number and profile of female economists in the United States.

If the new committee gets the go-ahead one of its first tasks will be to assemble data on the gender composition of the discipline. "The best estimate is that about 10 per cent are women," said Professor Osborn.

An econometrician who has held a chair at Manchester since 1993, she reckons that there are about ten female professors - most appointed in the past three years - well below 10 per cent of the total economics professoriat.

While this is an improvement, she points to worries lower down the academic scale."Discussions on the RES executive have shown that a number of us have had the experience of advertising academic posts and finding a dearth of female applicants. There appears to be a much higher proportion of women doing PhD research than in academic posts. We have to find out why."

One likely role for a women's committee would be to raise the profile of women who have attained senior posts, while seminar organisers could be sent the names of potential female speakers.

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