Heather Sarsons Fights to Make Sure Women Economists Get Credit
A new finding by Harvard PhD candidate Heather Sarsons is making waves in the world of economics, particularly in the world of published women economists.In her working paper, “Gender Differences in Recognition for Group Work,” Sarsons shares the discovery that female economists who publish their work as the sole author are considerably more likely to receive tenure when compared to women who publish as part of a group. More specifically, women who publish by themselves actually have the same tenure rate as that of their male counterparts, who enjoy a much higher rate of success than women who publish as a team.Ok, why does this matter? In most fields, tenure is the sure sign of a successful career and published articles pave the way to this shimmering-tenure-Nirvana. But in economics, it turns out if you’re a woman and your published article shares a byline with some other smart folks, you can expect to be overlooked by institutions of higher learning. As Justin Wolfers puts it in the NY Times, “When an economist writes a paper on her own, there is no question about who deserves the credit…. Unfortunately for women, research done with a co-author counts far less. When women write with co-authors, the benefit to their career prospects is much less than half that accorded to men.”Before jumping ship on all those group projects you’ve been working on, it may brighten your spirits to know that this trend does not persist in every field. So what is it about economics that perpetuates this tendency to attribute more credit to men than women? Economics is male-dominated, most research is published in groups, and credit distribution is left to employers to sort out for themselves. When left to their own devices, most employers demonstrate considerable gender bias. As Sarsons explains, “Bias, whether conscious or subconscious, can therefore have significant implications for the gender gap in promotion decisions.” While Sarson’s findings may not be positive, with her pioneering work, we’re one step closer to solving the problem by acknowledging it simply exists.