New approaches to economic research are changing our understanding of and response to gender stereotypes

New approaches to economic research are changing our understanding of and response to gender stereotypes

New ways of analyzing data from images and text are being used by economists to study discrimination in the labor market. A recent workshop organized by the Center for Economic Efficiency and the Social Policy Department of the London School of Economics discussed cutting-edge research on discrimination and gender stereotypes in the field of economics. Conference organizer Almudena Sevilla speaks with myung jin about the study of the impact of gender stereotypes and how this area is developing.

Q: What are gender stereotypes – are they always negative?

A gender stereotype is a generalized belief or assumption about the characteristics, roles, and behaviors associated with a particular gender. While stereotypes may not always be inherently negative, they can potentially be harmful to children and individuals as they may limit their choices and limit their options.

Stereotypes do not necessarily entail deliberate ill feelings towards people outside of your own group. However, stereotypes can create collective expectations that restrict people to predetermined roles, hindering their personal growth and potential. Therefore, even if stereotypes are not universally negative, their presence can be detrimental to children and individuals, limiting their choices and perpetuating social prejudice.

Q: How do gender stereotypes affect women’s work life?

Gender stereotypes have a significant impact on women’s working lives, often limiting their opportunities and placing them at a disadvantage. Notably, they promote occupational segregation: women are oriented to traditionally “female” fields, while men are encouraged to enter higher-paying industries such as engineering and finance. Women face punishment for motherhood due to society’s prioritization of nursing. Gender stereotypes also create prejudices that prevent women from taking leadership positions, perpetuating gender imbalances in decision-making roles.

Stereotypes appear early. in the newspaper Together with Cathy Nicoletti and Valentina Tonya, we examine data on parents’ opinions about their children’s abilities and find that while parents think boys are much better at math than they actually are, they don’t think the same way about girls in any subject, not even in subjects in which girls excel. We can now show that this parental bias affects gender differences in student performance later in life.

Question: Did you recently workshop on the Economics of Gender Stereotypes: Why was it important to hold the workshop now?

New ways of collecting, storing and analyzing vast data from images, text and other forms of media have recently shown that systematic discriminatory behavior may be more common than previously thought, and that it may arise not from hostility but from explicit or implicit gender stereotypes.

This has led to an active recent line of theoretical and empirical research that attempts to model the formation and evolution of stereotyped beliefs and quantify the impact of gender stereotypes on economic outcomes. Now is the perfect time to focus on the economics of gender stereotyping.

Q: What does knowledge of economics and social psychology add to the study of gender stereotypes?

IN recent article Reviewing the status of the gender economics literature, I argue that while the acceptance of explicit social norms and gender roles and their impact on economic behavior is increasingly accepted in economics, the recognition and exploration of implicit biases is a relatively recent development that has enriched the field, offering insight into the impact of unconscious biases on economic behavior and outcomes.

Borrowing from the social psychology literature, direction of research in gender economics adheres to the notion that stereotyping does not have to be the result of a conscious “slow” thought process (explicit stereotyping), but rather a “fast” implicit and unconscious process (implicit stereotyping). Discrimination resulting from unconscious mental associations can went unnoticed, even by the discriminating subjects themselves, who cannot control automatic thought processes. Marina Della Giusta and Stephen Bosworth propose great review this new line of research, which is currently pushing the boundaries of knowledge in the field of gender economics.

Q: You mentioned that you can analyze not only ordinary data, but also text and images. Can you give an example of this kind of research and what did it reveal?

An example of such a study is the article Seminars “Gender and Economic Dynamics” Pascaline Dupas, Alicia Sasser Modestino, Muriel Niederle, Justin Wolfers, and The Seminar Dynamics Collective, which reviews interactions in economics seminars. The paper compiled data from hundreds of research seminars, job interviews, and summer conferences from leading economics departments, which showed that female speakers faced more issues, often patronizing or hostile, than their male counterparts. Notably, these differences persisted regardless of area, series of workshops, or topics presented, and gender differences did not consistently decrease with more structured workshop formats. This data represents an unprecedented study of the dynamics of seminary culture in the field of economics, suggesting a more pervasive bias than originally thought, perhaps as a reactionary (conscious or unconscious) response to distributive disruption within established power dynamics and social norms.

Q: How can this new knowledge help us mitigate the negative impact of gender stereotypes?

This kind of research can play an important role in mitigating the negative impact of gender stereotypes by providing insight into the magnitude of the problem. By quantifying and understanding the scope of gender stereotypes, we can develop targeted interventions to effectively address and counter these biases.

Question: And how can this new knowledge help economists mitigate the negative impact of gender stereotypes on their own profession?

IN interview with Esther Duflo, Nobel Laureate in Economics, she said: “…the culture itself in economics is not very friendly. It’s a very aggressive culture, a very outspoken culture that a lot of women don’t particularly like. There, I think the profession can improve if we keep in mind a more civilized way of interacting with each other. And I really think it’s actually changing, that in the last few years there’s been a realization that it’s not good to be aggressive and rough and so on, you need to… the whole field needs to be softer.”

Until recently, toxic culture in economics was considered anecdotal. New ways of collecting all sorts of data and powerful tools for analyzing them have shown that this culture is more widespread than originally thought. This is a necessary (but not sufficient) condition for change. At the Royal Economic Society, I lead a newly created initiative, the Royal Economic Society. UK Women in Economics Network, and have joined a remarkable group of women and men in economics who are working to change the culture of economics and increase the representation of women in the discipline. You can join us Here.

The content created on this blog is for informational purposes only. This article represents the views and opinions of the authors, but does not reflect the views and opinions of the Impact of Social Science blog (blog) or the London School of Economics and Political Science. Please see our comment policy if you have any concerns about posting a comment below.

Image credit: Sandy Millar via

Printable, PDF and Email