Words ascribed to female economists: 'Hotter,' 'feminazi.' Men?: 'Goals,' 'Nobel.' - The Washington Post

The Washington Post
Elizabeth Winkler
27 August 2017


In 1970, the economics department at the University of California at Berkeley hired three newly minted economics PhDs from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Two - both men - were hired as assistant professors. But a woman, Myra Strober, was hired as a lecturer, a position of inferior pay and status and no possibility of tenure. When she asked the department chairman why she was denied an assistant professorship, he put her off with excuses. She kept pressing him until he gave a frank answer: She had two young children; the department couldn't possibly put her on the tenure track.

So Strober took another offer. In 1972, she became the first female economist at Stanford's Graduate School of Business. "They didn't know what to make of me," she said. The faculty retreat, which had been held every year at a men's club, had to be moved. There were jokes about putting a bag over her head so they could keep going to the club.

"It was like trying to run a race with one of your legs tied behind you," Strober said of the culture.

When she came up for tenure six years later, she was denied. "They told me I hadn't hit a home run and that my work wasn't seminal," she explained. "Two male metaphors in one sentence."

But the School of Education - "a different milieu" - was happy to have her. Years later, the business school finally extended her a professorship, too - by courtesy.

Women are still staggeringly underrepresented in economics departments: In 2016, they made up just 20 percent of tenure-track faculty, up from 13 percent in 1997, according to the American Economic Association. That puts the profession behind even the notoriously male-heavy STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) in gender equity.

"The pipeline into economics departments has stalled for at least a decade, probably more," said Shelly Lundberg, an economist at the University of California at Santa Barbara and chair of the AEA's Committee on the Status of Women in the Economics Profession. Only about a third of new PhD students are women - a number that has barely budged in 20 years.

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