The field of economics has a “dirty secret” that’s putting women off its pursuit in academia: It’s a “testosterone-fueled bear pit.”
That’s according to one of the U.K.’s most influential economic policy makers David Miles. And it’s one of the big reasons the field has been dominated by men, said Miles, head of macroeconomic forecasting at the country’s fiscal watchdog, the Office for Budget Responsibility.
Miles made the comments to lawmakers in December, and his observation is borne out by a study of the data. In a 2020 survey conducted by the Royal Economic Society, more than 50% of respondents said they found the climate aggressive. Less than half found it respectful, and a third of women said they had been subjected to inappropriate sexually-related behavior, according to the survey of 181 academic economists.
It’s not just a culture question. Women are grossly underrepresented in the field. And for those who stick it out, they deal with the widest gender pay gap among professors across subjects at U.K. universities.
“If economics is toxic on the inside, as we draw more women into the subject, they’ll be turned off, exit and retreat,” said Victoria Bateman, a Cambridge University economist who co-authored an RES report on women in the field.