A Note on the Gender Disparity in Quoted Experts

Why women experts are denied the same scholarly authority conferred to men, and what we should do about it

A recent New York Times article highlighted an issue that INET is very familiar with: the gender disparity in who is considered a scholarly authority.

 The authors of the piece, Amanda Taub and Max Fisher are right: Gender discrimination begins early on in school and only increases in the course of academic careers. But there’s more. The hierarchical, male-dominated structure of academia—especially present in economics—hinders women’s job advancement and visibility, but also reduces their creativity by incentivizing them to choose conventional research paths. 

Pluralism of scholarly thought has to be a key part of our fight for gender equality if we want women to make a difference with ideas, even when they threaten established theory.  Foundational to our mission is the belief that new ideas in economics come from rejecting popular but unrealistic economic models which misrepresent the precision and objectivity of technical judgement, and from recognizing the provisional, value- and historically-determined nature of economic knowledge. 

But how can we make sure that these challenging new theories get heard, and that those individuals who produce them—especially women—find an equal and fair supportive environment?

As two Nobel prize winners have argued, we must dismantle the power that a few top economics journals have over researchers’ careers: Let’s evaluate research by reading and analyzing it, rather than looking at where it is published. And let’s study and teach history: Situating ideas and models in the context in which they were created helps us see them critically—and may contribute to overthrowing beloved old patriarchs and the dated models that keep surviving their own failures.

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