The Royal Economic Society Women’s Committee Survey 2010

This report on the recent survey was prepared by Laura C Blanco and Prof Karen Mumford at the University of York.

This report covers the eighth survey of the gender and ethnic balance in academic employment in economics in Britain in a series started in 1996 by the Royal Economic Society (RES) Women’s Committee and repeated bi-annually thereafter. In 1998, the RES also undertook a survey into the ethnic composition of academic employment in economics and since 2004 the two surveys have been combined. The questionnaire was emailed out by Tim Worrall (CHUDE Secretary) on November 2nd, 2010, to around 95 institutions drawn, as in previous years, from the CHUDE mailing list. The survey aimed to collect information as of November 1st 2010 on academic staff (full-time and part-time) by grade of employment, gender, ethnicity, and country of birth. It also collected information on promotions, new hires and job leavers (in the academic year 2009/2010). By March the 11th 2011, 57 questionnaires had been returned: a reasonable response rate of 60 per cent. In a second stage of the surveying process, Gwen Postle and Karen Mumford also gathered information from the web-sites of the CHUDE departments. These web based data were used in comparisons with the email survey responses and with the original 1996 postal survey data.

Summary of the main results

• women constitute 22 per cent of all academic staff in economics;
• women are under-represented among Professors — one in three men are Professors compared to one in six women;
• the proportion of women is substantially higher in research jobs than in standard academic jobs;
• the proportion of women is higher among part-timers than full-timers;
• 18per cent of staff are from ethnic minorities, 12 per cent of Professors belong to these minority groups;
•women are disproportionately represented amongst the ethnic minorities.

It is also of interest to compare the results from the 2010 survey with that from 2008. The lower response rate in 2010 limits this balanced sample comparison but the overall impression is:

• the proportion of women among academic economists has remained comparatively stable between 2008 and 2010
• female Professors are promoted internally rather than hired
• job separations are rare for senior females

Comparing the 2010 balanced sample results to those from the 1996 survey:

• In aggregate the workforce has grown substantially over the fourteen years, from 2346 to 2857 academic economists (a 21.8 per cent growth rate).
• in 1996 women made up 17.5 per cent of the workforce, by 2010 this has risen to 21.9 per cent (a comparatively modest increase of 4.4 percentage points).
• the numbers of Professors has more than doubled over the time period (from 14.2 per cent of all staff to 26.3 per cent)
• women are twice as likely to be in the standard academic grades in 2010 than they were in 1996 (in 1996 women made up approximately 15 per cent of the Lecturers, 10 per cent of the Readers/Senior Lecturers and 5 per cent of the Professors; in 2010 women make up some 30 per cent of the Lecturers, 20 per cent of the Readers/Senior Lecturers and 10 per cent of the Professors).

Of all the women employed full time in standard academic appointments (see Figure 1), 17 per cent are Professors and a further 29 per cent are Readers or Senior Lecturers. Roughly one in every two of the women is a Lecturer. Carrying out a similar exercise for the men (Figure 2) reveals that males are roughly twice as likely to be Professors but only slightly more likely to be Senior Lecturers or Readers than are the women.

Part time employment

Concentrating on the part-time employees (see the lower panel of Table 1), the number of men working part-time is considerably larger than the number of women; however, their numbers relative to the total pool of male employees are smaller: 8.8 per cent of female economists in academia are working part-time and 7.8 per cent of male are. Of the female economists in standard academic jobs, 7.7 per cent work part-time whilst 7.4 per cent of the males do. Women are particularly prevalent amongst the part-time Lecturers in permanent positions and the part-time Researchers in fixed term contracts (comparing the higher and lower panels of Table 1).

Of the part-time women employed in standard academic appointments, 30 per cent are Professors and 60 per cent are Lecturers (see Figure 3). Carrying out a similar exercise for the men (Figure 4) reveals that 49 per cent of the part-time males are in the Professorial grade with 34 per cent in the Lecturer grade. In other words, part-time males are 1.6 times as likely to be Professors and roughly half as likely to be Lecturers as are part-time women.

The majority of the Professors working on a fixed term contract are working part-time (58 per cent), which is also true for the only female Professor on a fixed term contract. In contrast, two thirds of the relatively scarce Senior Researchers are employed on a fixed term basis and 13 per cent of them are also working part-time. Researchers are particularly prone to be on a fixed term contract (95 per cent) and about a tenth of these academics are also working part-time. Researchers are also substantially more likely to be female; 71 per cent of part-time Researchers on fixed term contracts are female.

Considering a role model effect

It may be that departments with female Professors find it easier to recruit, promote and/or retain other women (a role model effect). In aggregate, departments with a female Professor had an average of 16 per cent of female staff in non-professorial job ranks, in departments with no female professor this proportion was 20 per cent. Departments with at least one female Professor were also slightly larger in size, as measured by the number of staff below Professor (16 relative to 13). Taken in combination, however, the evidence presented in the report does not provide compelling prima facie support for the role model hypothesis (a similar conclusion was reached for the 2006 and 2008 surveys).

Analysis by RAE results

It may also be argued that there is a relationship between the presentation of women in a department and the department's rank in the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE). This is another issue that has been explored in the previous surveys and reports, without convincing results supporting the hypothesis.

During the 2008 RAE, departments could be rated under different Units of Assessment (UoAs). The data were analysed to see if there were any differences between departments rated in the ‘Economics and Econometrics’ unit (UoA 34); the ‘Accounting and Finance’ unit (UoA 35); and the ‘Business and Management’ unit (UoA 36). Departments could submit to multiple units and many did (30 of the responding departments submitted to Economics and Econometrics; 7 to Accounting and Finance; and 50 to Business Management). For these responding departments, the average RAE score for each of the Units of Assessment were 2.85 for Economics and Econometrics; 2.36 for Accounting and Finance; and 2.45 for Business Management. Of those departments submitting to more than one Unit of Assessment, ranking priority for categorisation of the RAE score results was set at ‘Economics and Econometrics’ › ‘Business and Management’ › ‘Accounting and Finance’. Figure 6 shows the proportion of female staff in each grade rank by the RAE score of the department. The departments were divided into those who scored (i) below 2.5; (ii) 2.5 or above but below 3; and (iii) 3 or above. Of the 56 responding departments who submitted to these units of assessment, 10 departments scored above 3 (465 staff members), 22 departments scored above 2.5 but equal to or below 3 (545 staff), and 24 departments scored 2.5 or below (338 staff); none of the departments scored below 1.

The results in Figure 5 are clearly mixed. Amongst the higher RAE scoring departments, the relative number of female Professors, Senior Lecturers and Senior Researchers is greater in those departments scoring above 3 than in those scoring above 2.5 but below 3. There is also some concentration of separate research clusters with Senior Researchers in those departments that rated highly in the RAE. (Of the 338 staff members present in the lower RAE scoring departments, there is only one Senior Researcher. This single Senior Researcher is female and is therefore recorded as 100 per cent female representation in this grade rank.)

Job flows and promotions

Table 2 presents information on new staff hired in the last year in the respondent department: columns 1 to 4 for the full 2010 email sample; columns 5 and 6 are the 2010 survey balanced sample results for those departments responding to both the 2010 and the 2008 surveys; and columns 7 and 8 are the full 2008 email survey results. Hiring in 2010 can be seen to be fractionally lower than it was in 2008 and a decreasing percentage of women are hired as the grade ranks increase in the balanced sample.

The majority of inflows into the senior academic grades (Professorial, Reader or Senior Lecturer) may be due to promotion rather than new hires. Table 3 presents information on internal promotions (i.e., those promotions within the department) and follows the same structure as Table 2.

These numbers of internal promotions are obviously small so we should again be cautious about how valid the implications of these flows for changes in relative employment actually are. Nevertheless, women gaining 7 of the 27 professorial promotions in 2010 merely keeps the relative stock of female Professors effectively stable. Internal promotion of female Readers decreased by more than half, while Senior Lecturers show similar results to those in 2008.

The third flow affecting the stock of academic economists is, of course, leavers (see Table 5). In aggregate, women make up a similar proportion of these separations as they do of the total pool of academic economists but such separations are rare for the most senior women (Professors and Readers).

The 2010 survey also asks respondents about the reasons for separations. One out of five leavers moved for a promotion, a similar number retired, and a further 13 per cent left because they had reached the end of their contract. Women are less likely than men to leave for promotion, but they are more likely to reach the end of their contract, which is no surprise since women are overrepresented in the staff with fixed term contracts. One out of ten leavers cited family reasons for quitting their jobs, which might indicate ineffective implementation of family friendly work practices within departments. This may be a more pertinent issue for women as 31 percent of those who left their job due to family reasons are women and women are 1.6 times more likely than men to do so.


Overall, amongst the responding sample, 81.9 per cent of academic economists are considered to be white, adding to a trend of decline: 82.9 per cent of the sample in 2008; 84.2 per cent in 2006; and 86 per cent in 2004. The proportion of whites amongst the more senior grade ranks also typically displayed a slight trend downwards, including Professor (91.38 per cent in 2004, 90.76 per cent in 2006, 88.5 per cent in 2008, 87.6 per cent in 2010); and Reader (90.5 per cent in 2004, 84.9 per cent in 2006, and 84.6 per cent in 2008, 83.3 per cent in 2010).

Female academic economists are more likely to be non-white than are males: 25 per cent of the females are relative to 16 per cent of the males. Women constitute 41 per cent of the Chinese academic economists, 28 per cent of other ethnic minorities, and 30 per cent of the South East Asians. It is only amongst the black ethnic minority grouping that females occur in disproportionately low numbers. The correlation between gender and ethnicity is found to occur predominantly via non-white women being more common place at the Researcher and Lecturer (permanent) levels.

Comparing the 2010 surveys

A striking difference in the results from the web-based surveys and the email surveys is the number of extra senior staff members listed on the web pages but not included in the email responses, this is especially true for Professors and Senior Researchers. Comparing the total staff by rank in the balanced samples reveals 648 Professors in the balanced web sample and only 428 in the email survey (more than a third extra in the web sample), and 183 Senior Researchers relative to 31 in the email survey (almost six times as many). There is also a greater concentration of males amongst these senior ranks on the web pages. It may be that these extra staff members are actually in Emeritus, Visiting or Honorary positions not considered to be ‘salaried members of academic and research staff’ as required for inclusion in the email survey of departments. The preponderance of males amongst this group is also predictable if membership is associated with older cohorts of academic economists. Nevertheless, it suggests a greater presence of senior male economists in prestigious appointments in the departments.

Changes over time

Figure 6 plots the percentage of women amongst the total academic economics workforce (including research grades) and amongst the standard academic workforce for each of the RES Women’s Committee surveys. These results are from unbalanced samples, reflecting the fullest sample information from each of the surveys. An overall growth trend in the percentage of women in the workforce can be seen in the figure (with or without the inclusion of the research grades), with some evidence of stabilizing between 2008 and 2010.

Women made up 21.9 per cent of the total academic economics posts in 2010, compared to 17.5 per cent in 1996; in the past 14 years there has only been a 4.4 percentage point increase in the representation of women in academic economics.

A full version of the report can be found at:

From issue no. 155, October 2011, pp.6-10

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