An important new study of online conversations among economists by Alice H. Wu quantifies “outright hostility toward women in parts of the economics profession,” reports Justin Wolfers of the New York Times. Wu reported the findings from her award-winning senior thesis research paper at the University of California, Berkeley. Her paper is prompting urgent conversations among leading economists around the country.
Wolfers notes that, while the underrepresentation of women in the economics departments of top universities is well known, claims about workplace culture as the culprit have been hard to measure. People are guarded about publicly revealing their attitudes toward female economists. Wu developed new uses of technology to reveal hidden misogyny.
I grew up in a family of entrepreneurs where my mother and many of my aunts were strong businesswomen. I am also an entrepreneur, perhaps because I had female role models, and I have always wondered—why don’t more women start businesses?
Claire Cain Miller of the New York Times agrees that something is wrong with the underrepresentation of female business founders. She notes that while women make up half the workforce and earn 40–50 percent of the degrees in business, science, and engineering, fewer than 10 percent of technology startups are founded by women, and only 36 percent of all US companies are owned by women. Also, many woman-owned businesses are small, employ only the founder, and earn less revenue than businesses founded by men, according to the census data.