A new study has found a sizable gender gap among economists in Europe, with women and men holding different views on a broad range of issues such as austerity policy, regulation of high-risk financial transactions, renewable energy, hydraulic fracturing, drilling in the Arctic Refuge and genetically modified crops. “These results are significant because they demonstrate the importance of including women and men when economic policy is being debated and developed,” says David Kucera of the International Labour Organization (ILO), one of the authors of the study titled Gender and European Economic Policy: A Survey of the Views of European Economists on Contemporary Economic Policy.
The study finds that female economists in the European Union are less likely than their male counterparts to favour market solutions over government interventions and more likely to favour environmental protection policies. For example, women economists are more likely than men to disagree with the notion that stronger employment protection results in weaker economic growth, and more likely to agree that the European Union should continue its ban on the planting of genetically modified crops.
The study also finds that the average female EU economist is more likely to believe that men have greater opportunities than women in the labour market and in higher education. The largest difference of opinion in this topic concerned equality of opportunity for women in academe. Male economists surveyed were more likely to believe that opportunities either favour women over men or are equal, whereas female economists surveyed were more likely to see opportunities as favouring men more than women.
The study addresses similar questions as a prior study of economists in the United States by the lead authors. While there are similarities in the findings of the two studies, there are also differences. In the United States, men and women economists are more in agreement with each other when it comes to core concepts and methods. Both studies find gender gaps in views on favouring market solutions over government intervention.
The EU and US studies strongly converge on the finding of sizable gender gaps in perceptions of job opportunities for men and women in higher education and the broader labour market. In both the European Union and the United States, male economists responded that opportunities are relatively equal between men and women, while the female economists disagreed.
These results provide important information on the potential impact of the changing demographics of the economics profession. As more women enter the field of economics, they will bring different views about economic policy, and enlarge the scope of possible outcomes. “The changing demographics of economics will bring more women into the field. Our research suggests that economic policy will change as a result,” says Ann Mari May, the lead author on the study. The study is the first systematic analysis of differences in European men and women economists’ views. The authors – May and Mary McGarvey of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Kucera – surveyed economists at universities in 18 European Union countries.