Why Women need Economics… and why Economics needs Women

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Around this time last year, I decided I wanted to do Economics at University. During my research into which University I should go to; I watched a lot of YouTube videos. This was when I noticed something: when I searched “Economics at Uni” into YouTube, out of the first eight video results, only one is a woman. Quite frankly, I think economics in the most fascinating subject I have ever studied. So, where are all the women? Why do women need economics… and why does economics need women?

Where are they all?

In my A Level Economics class, there are nine people, two of them being women. Of course, when you go to a sixth form that has roughly 150 boys and only 60 girls, this statistic hardly seems surprising. But considering other subjects like psychology, art and history – some of which have a ratio of 1:1 girl to boys – it appears to be an economics issue. Statistics have shown that boys are twice as likely to choose Economics at A Level and University. Today, females make up just over a third of economic graduates. So, why do girls not choose economics?

One of the main excuses I’ve heard is that “Women don’t like maths, and Economics is too much maths for them”. However, considering Maths degrees have a higher percentage of women than Economics does, this reasoning seems to hold little ground. This brings me onto my theories. Firstly, I think there is a lack of opportunity. It has been proven that Economics is less likely to be offered as a subject in a girl’s school than a boy’s school. This is a key point as we cannot expect the percentage of female undergraduates to increase, if they aren’t exposed to the subject before university. Additionally, there are far fewer female role models to look up to – only 30% of full professors at the top European Universities are female. The Monetary Policy Committee (the group of chief economists that decide interest rates as well as other fun things) that represents the UK can be seen below:

Look at all that diversity! Oh wait… never mind. My final theory for women not studying economics is the lack of interest. Don’t get me wrong, economics is an incredibly interesting subject. But how are women meant to share my love for it if they don’t even know what it is? There needs to be an increase in education surrounding Economics in order to get more women excited about it – then maybe we’ll see the increase in diversity that the field so desperately needs.

Why Economics needs Women

Diversity matters. Every aspect of life can be improved with a little diversity. No one can dispute that when diversity is introduced in fields (such as music, art or acting) the output is greatly improved. The theory is the same with Economics. A Bristol Economics Student said that “It is important to bring about the diversity of opinion and debate that is necessary to make advancements in the subject. My female friends and professors are some of the most intelligent and interesting people I have met, and the subject is missing out by continuing to remain unbalanced in such a way”. This student really resonates with me, as there are so many reasons why I believe that diversity is important. Firstly, it would mean drawing from the widest talent pool. If it was more accessible to women, Economics and the Financial Sector would surely see an interest in productivity and efficiency as they can pick the best people, whether that is a woman or not (at least the choice is there!).

Secondly, diversity fosters intellectual growth. More people from different backgrounds (not necessarily just more women) allow for increased diversity in conversations, more back and forth of ideas and ultimately deeper and wider intellectual growth between individuals. Thirdly, different economists have different interests. Traditionally, men are more interested in the financial aspects of economics such as foreign exchange rates or economic tensions between countries, whereas women are generally more interested and well versed in aspects of economics such as the public sector, labour and welfare of the people. From this you can see that more women, would mean more diversity, resulting in more specialists in a wider range of areas. Lastly, different economists have different views. I’m sure all of you reading this have done some form of group work in the past – there’s no doubt that more people directly correlates with more brains and therefore more ideas. How can anyone believe they have the best ideas when they’re missing out on so much potential input?

Why Women need Economics

Economics is empowering. It provides tools to understand and change the world. Some of the most key events happening in the world right now – such as Brexit or the USA/China Trade Wars – are directly linked, perhaps even caused by economic factors. Being at the centre of global politics with knowledge of economics allows you to understand the wider world and make a substantial difference. Economics carries people to positions of influence – such as Global Chief Economist of HSBC Janet Henry, or Director of the IMF Kristalina Georgieva. There’s no doubt in my mind that economics links to some of the most leading, influential positions there are.

Lastly (but not most importantly!), economics graduates earn among the highest salaries. There are economists in every part of the UK – government, businesses, non profit organisations, and much more. The possibilities for both personal financial and intellectual growth are endless. And you may be thinking “but I don’t want to be sat in an office all day looking at stock markets!” – you don’t have to! Economics degrees lead to analysts, consultants, researchers, policy advisers, teachers, accountants, graduate trainees – even politics.

In my opinion, Economics is the best subject in the world. It’s given me a greater, wider appreciation and understanding of the world in which we live in, and I would recommend the subject to anyone without reservation. Hopefully in the future the gender ratio will be more balanced, but for now I strongly encourage everyone to consider it.