July 2013 newsletter – The RES Women’s Committee Survey 2012

This report on the recent survey was prepared by Karen Mumford.1

This report covers the ninth survey of gender balance in academic employment in economics in Britain in a series started in 1996 by the Royal Economic Society Women’s Committee and repeated bi-annually thereafter. The web pages of ninety two CHUDE (Conference of Heads of University Departments of Economics) departments and fifteen leading research institutes were surveyed in November 2012 by the Women’s Committee. The survey collected information on academic staff (full-time and part-time) by grade of employment, gender, and research discipline. It also collects information on promotions, new hires and job leavers. The survey entries were then emailed to respective institutions for verification in January 2013. The overall verified survey response rate from the 107 institutions is reasonable at 64 per cent (67 per cent or 62 responses from the 92 CHUDE departments, and 47 per cent or 7 responses from the 15 research institutes).

Summary of the main findings
• women constitute some 24 per cent of all academic staff in economics;
• women are under-represented among professors; 
• the proportion of women is substantially higher in research jobs than in standard academic jobs;
• close to 10 per cent of males and females have part-time employment in the sector, however, these    males are more often found in senior positions than the females;
• the most popular research discipline for both male and female economists is microeconomics, followed by macroeconomics and monetary policy.

It is also of interest to compare the results from the 2012 survey with that from 2010. Balanced sample comparison is less than perfect, nevertheless, the overall impression is:

• the proportion of women among academic economists increased from 21.9 to 23.9 per cent;
• the representation of women in each grade rank showed very little change;
• female professors are more commonly promoted internally rather than hired;
• job separations are rare for senior females;
• changes that are observed over the two years are not generally significantly different from zero making it hard to make any definite statement about short-term movements.

Comparing the 2012 sample results to those from earlier surveys:

• In aggregate, the proportion of the workforce that is female has increased substantially over the sixteen years of surveying (in 1996 women made up 17.5 per cent of the workforce, by 2012 this has risen to 23.9 per cent);
• the numbers of professors amongst all staff has more than doubled over the time period (from 14.2 per cent of all staff to 31.7 per cent);
• women are roughly twice as common in the standard academic grades in 2012 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 4 per cent of the professors; in 2012 women make up some 30 per cent of the lecturers, 24 per cent of the readers/senior lecturers and 11 per cent of the professors). Amongst professors, however, these relative gains appear to be tapering off from 2008.

Table 1 reports the numbers of economists employed in academia in the UK from the total verified web survey returns, including both CHUDE departments and research groups. In aggregate, information is available for 1,877 people who work as economists in academic appointments in the UK, 449 (or 23.9 per cent) of these are women. The vast majority of these economists (85 per cent) are working in standard academic appointments (i.e. mixed teaching and research jobs as opposed to research-only appointments); this figure is lower for women than for men (77.7 per cent and 87.9 per cent, respectively). If the research-only categories are excluded from the calculation, women make up 21.8 per cent of the standard full-time academic workforce (or 349 out of 1,604 employees). Women are substantially more likely to be employed at lower academic grade levels, as is clearly seen in the final column of Table 1. Amongst full-time staff, the proportion female decreases from 29 per cent of the permanent lecturers, to 18.6 per cent of the readers and 11.4 per cent of the professors.

Part time employment
The number of men working part-time is considerably larger than the number of women (see the lower panel of Table 1); although, their numbers relative to the total pool of male employees are similar with some 10 per cent of female and male economists in academia working part-time. Men working part time are more likely to have a standard academic job whereas part time employment is more common for women in research only positions. (Of the economists in standard academic jobs, 4.9 per cent of the women work part-time whilst 7.8 per cent of the males do.) Women are particularly prevalent amongst the researchers and lecturers working part time.

Considering a role model effect
Departments with female professors may find it easier to recruit, promote and/or retain other women (a role model effect). Departments with a female professor were found to have an average of 15 per cent of female staff in non-professorial job ranks, in departments with no female professor this proportion was 22 per cent. Additionally, departments with at least one female professor are larger in size, as measured by the number of staff below professor (21 relative to 14). Taken in combination, the evidence presented in the report does not provide prima facie support for the role model hypothesis (a similar conclusion was reached for the 2006, 2008 and 2010 surveys).

Analysis by RAE results
It may be argued that there is a relationship between the presentation of women in a department and the department’s success 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. Whilst the full report provides more extensive analysis of this issue, on average, departments with lower RAE scores are found to have relatively more posts held by women. The relative number of female professors and readers is, however, larger in the higher RAE scoring departments.

Research discipline
For the first time, information was harvested on the research discipline of academic staff from the web pages (by Jonny Roman and Malgorzata Mitka) and was sent for verification with the survey returns. Table 2 presents results for economists in standard academic appointments (full time and part time) in CHUDE departments from the verified survey (additional information including discipline breakdown by rank and within research institutions is provided in the full report). Column 4 shows that the most popular research disciplines are unsurprisingly the core areas of microeconomics (13.9 per cent of all staff); macroeconomics and monetary economics (13.6 per cent); and mathematical and quantitative methods (13.3 per cent).

These are also the research areas which are the most common amongst the professors (see column 7 of Table 2), although the ordering is slightly different with more professors working in mathematical and quantitative methods (14.5 per cent); followed by macro and monetary economics (13.5 per cent); and then microeconomics (13 per cent). The distribution of research interests amongst professors is similar to that across the total staff (comparing columns 4 and 7) with the possible exceptions of labour economics (more popular amongst professors) and general economics and teaching (less popular).

Flows into and out of standard academic positions in the previous year
Changes in the stock of individuals in any job rank due to inflows from new hires, job separations (resignations and retirements), and promotions (within and across departments) can also be addressed. As the web based survey is now tracking individuals we can begin to calculate movements more accurately (for example, tracking those who left one department but were hired into another, and if they received a promotion in this move). In the past, our data on promotions only included promotions that were internal to departments and total staff movements were essentially gross rather than net.

Table 3 presents staff movements over the 2011/12 academic year (between Novembers 2011 and 2012), these were sent with the 2012 web survey results to institutions for verification. Columns 1 to 4 are those promotions internal to the department, columns 5 to 8 are those promoted from other UK departments. These numbers of promotions are obviously small so we should be cautious about how valid the implications of these flows for changes in relative employment stocks are. Nevertheless, comparing columns 4 and 8 (showing the percentage female by rank amongst the flows) with columns 21 (showing the percentage females amongst the stock by rank), suggests very small gains were made in the 2011/12 time period via promotions, especially amongst professors and readers.

Panel two of Table 3 provides information on hiring over the 12 month period. Columns 9 to 12 presents information on new staff hired in the last year (in the 12 months prior to the survey date), this is staff entering the sector. Columns 13 to 16 are for hires across UK departments. We can see that there were 50 professors hired from outside of the UK sector (column 11) in the 2011/12 academic year, and a further 15 professors hired from other UK departments (column 15). With the exception of senior lecturers (where females are less likely to move across departments), there is little gender difference across ranks for those being hired from other departments or from outside the sector comparing columns 12 and 16). The representation of women amongst the hiring inflow will do little to improve the overall representation of women in the stock by rank (column 21); with a very slight increase in the percentage of professors who are female but larger fall amongst the readers.

The third flow affecting the stock of academic economists is, of course, leavers. In aggregate, women make up a similar proportion of these separations as they do of the total pool of academic economists (24.9 per cent relative to 23.9 per cent) and such separations are rare for the most senior women (Professors and Senior Researchers). The most common destination employment for the job leavers is to an ‘unknown job’ (138 out of 361 leavers or 38 per cent of all job leavers) followed by to another academic appointment (36 per cent) implying considerable churning within the sector, with non-employment taking up a further 20 per cent.

The 2012 survey also asks departments about the reasons for these separations. Women are slightly more likely than men to leave for a promotion and they are considerably more likely to be left without a job because they reached the end of their contract. Drawing together the information on inflows, separations and promotions allows us to consider the major sources of the aggregate employment shifts in the sector.

Staff changes over time.
Figure 1 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 using unbalanced samples (reflecting the fullest sample information for each of the surveys). An overall growth trend in the percentage of women in the workforce can clearly be seen in Figure 1 (with or without the inclusion of the research grades).

The percentage of the women working in full-time standard academics jobs in CHUDE departments by rank (using unbalanced samples from the bicentennial surveys) is shown in Figure 2. We can clearly see the substantial improvement in the relative position of women over the time period. In 1996, approximately 5 per cent of the professors were female, 10 per cent of the senior lecturer/readers and 15 per cent of the lecturers. By 2012, these ratios had essentially doubled. However, Figure 2 also reveals only a very small change in the representation of women amongst the professors in recent years (especially post 2008).

The percentage of full-time female (male) UK academics in CHUDE departments by rank over time is plotted in Figure 3 (4); again using the unbalanced samples from each of the biennial surveys. In 1996, roughly one in every two males was a lecturer and one in four males a professor or senior lecturer/reader. By 2012 men had similar proportions in each of these three academic rank groupings. The opening position for women was vastly different with almost three quarters of female staff members being a lecturer and only one in sixteen a professor. These gaps have closed substantially for women over the years. Nevertheless, women finished the time period much less favorably (than did the males) with a roughly one in two chance of being a lecturer, one in three a senior lecturer/reader and only one in six of being a professor.

It is not obvious how the relative position of women in UK academia will change in the next few years. Figure 4 clearly reveals that the pool of men in each of the grade ranks is not in steady state over the time period. Consider the professors; it is exceptionally rare for Professors to be demoted and so they typically maintain this job rank until retirement. Increasing the pool of male professors (these have more than doubled in numbers between 1996 and 2012) will obviously result in a fall in the proportion of the job rank female, ceteris paribus. The number of female Professors has increased almost six fold over the time period but they are still only making up some 11 per cent of the total number of professors. The major source of growth in the pool of professors in the last two decades is due to higher inflows. Changing the retirement laws so that the exit rate (into retirement) falls would be expected to raise the average duration of those in the professorial pool.

As we might reasonably expect more elder male cohorts than female amongst the Professors, this may lead to lower relative numbers of women amongst the Professors in the next few years. As the Women’s Committee continues with its annual individual based web surveys, we will be able to monitor both inflow and outflow rates for each grade rank enabling us to more insightfully address concerns including why the relative proportion of female Professors has shown little change since 2008.


1. Chair of the Women’s Committee (and Professor at the University of York). A full version of the report can be found on the Womens Committee webpages: http://www.res.org.uk/view/womensComm.html