Why are there so few female Economics professors?

Short summary of my article in Economisch Statistische Berichten on gender bias and meritocracy in academia

Although the proportion of female professors in Economics in the Netherlands has doubled in the last 10 years, at 10.4% it is still among the lowest in Europe. Ironically it is even lower than the proportion of female professors in the Natural Sciences and Engineering! Hence the Dutch trade journal for policy-oriented Economics - Economisch Statistische Berichten - commissioned a Dossier on Women in Economics. The Dossier was launched at the yearly Economics Day on the 2nd of November [see picture].

I was invited to publish a paper in the dossier and asked renowned gender experts Claartje Vinkenburg [3rd from the right on the picture] and Marloes van Engen  to join me. Our paper reviews the evidence in the field and provides two collections: First, collated evidence of gender bias, and second, practical and evidence-based interventions to mitigate bias and to make academia more inclusive.

  • Harzing, A.W.; Vinkenburg, C.; van Engen, M. (2018): How to make career advancement in Economics more inclusive, Economisch Statistische Berichten, vol. 103, issue 4767s, 1 November 2018, pp. 42-48. Publisher's version [free download].

The introduction of the paper and its key conclusions are below. The full paper can be read as a white paper on my website and downloaded for free from the ESB website.


Men are overrepresented in senior academic positions in Economics (Teunissen and Hogendoorn, 2018). While gender inequality in ­academia is universal (Miller et al., 2015), it is especially pronounced in the Economics discipline (Leslie et al., 2015) and in the Netherlands in particular (Miller et al., 2015). In nearly four decades, only six women have ever made it into the ESB Economics Top 40.

It is important to note that promoting gender equality is not just a matter of fairness; it is – as should be of interest to Economists – also a matter of ­efficiency. For instance, Hsieh et al. (2018) have argued that no less than a quarter of the economic growth in the US between 1960 and 2010 can be attributed to what they call “the improved allocation of talent” of members of underrepresented groups. For the Netherlands specifically, The McKinsey Global Institute recently calculated that greater gender parity in labor force participation, STEM fields, and senior positions, would add more than 100 billion euros to Dutch GDP (McKinsey, 2018).

To shed light on this phenomenon and to present insight into possible interventions, we provide a conceptual and empirical analysis of the factors underlying gender differences in career advancement in Economics, drawing on the latest research in the behavioural sciences.


Hsieh, C.-T., E. Hurst, C.I. Jones and P.J. Klenow (2013) The allocation of talent and U.S. economic growth. National Bureau of Economic Research. Available at klenow.com.

Leslie, S.-J., A. Cimpian, M. Meyer and E. Freeland (2015) Expectations of brilliance underlie gender distributions across academic disciplines. Science, 347(6219), 262–265.

McKinsey (2018) Capturing the potential: advancing gender equality in the Dutch ­labor market. McKinsey Global Institute. Available at www.mckinsey.com.

Miller, D.I., A.H. Eagly and M.C. Linn (2015) Women’s representation in science predicts national gender-science stereotypes: evidence from 66 nations. Journal of Educational Psychology, 107(3), 631–644.

Teunissen, S. and C. Hogendoorn (2018) Too few women in economic debate. ESB, 103(4767S), 6-9.

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