July 2017 newsletter – The Gender Balance in UK Economics Departments and Research Institutes in 2016

The report, by Silvana Tenreyro1, covers the eleventh 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. This is a shortened version of the full report which can be read on the Society’s website.

The web pages of ninety three CHUDE departments, seven non-CHUDE departments2, and fifteen leading research institutes were surveyed in November-December 2016. The survey collected information on academic staff (full-time and part-time) by grade of employment, gender, and research discipline. It also collected information on promotions, new hires and job leavers. These survey entries were then emailed to respective institutions for verification in January 2017. The overall verified survey response rate from the 112 institutions was 57 per cent (60 per cent or 56 responses from the 93 CHUDE departments, 14 per cent or 1 response from the 7 non-CHUDE departments, and 58 per cent or 7 responses from the 12 research institutes).

What follows in this article is based upon these verified returns or the ‘Respondents Survey’ for short. The full report includes a discussion of the full web-based survey (in section 3). It also compares findings across earlier surveys and presents evidence of changes over time (section 4).

Overview of the findings for the Respondents Survey
Table 1 reports the numbers of economists employed in academia in the UK from the total verified web survey returns, including CHUDE and non-CHUDE departments, and research institutions. In total, information is available for 2,077 people who work in academic appointments in the UK, 584 (or 28.1 per cent) of whom are women.

Table 1. Primary employment function: All academic staff in economics departments
and research institutes (responding sample, 2016)

Source: RES Women's Committee Survey, 2016

A significant share of these economists (75.6 per cent) are working in standard academic appointments (that is, mixed teaching and research jobs as opposed to research-only appointments); this figure is lower for women than for men (68 per cent and 78.6 per cent, respectively). If the research-only categories are excluded from the calculation, women make up 26.5 per cent of the standard full-time academic workforce (or 362 out of 1,367 employees).

Women are substantially more likely to be employed at lower academic grade levels, as is seen in the final column of Table 1. For example, amongst full time staff, the proportion female decreases from 35 per cent of the Permanent Lecturers or Assistant Professors, to 26.5 per cent of the Readers or Associate Professors and 16.6 per cent of the Professors.

Of all the women employed full time in standard academic appointments (see Figure 1), 19 per cent are Professors and a further 33 per cent are Associate Professors, Readers, or Senior Lecturers. Slightly less than one in every two of the women is an Assistant Professor or Lecturer and less than one in five is a Professor. Carrying out a similar exercise for the men (Figure 2) reveals that 35 per cent of the male academics are in the Professorial grade with another 33 per cent in the Associate Professor or Reader/Senior Lecturer grades. Male academics are nearly twice as likely to be Professors, and are substantially less likely to be Lecturers, than are female academics.


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 to the share of females working part-time: 20.3 per cent of female and 20.4 per cent of male economists in academia are 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, 8.9 per cent of the women work part-time whilst 14.3 per cent of the men do. Women are particularly prevalent amongst the Researchers and Lecturers with permanent part-time contracts.

Considering the relatively few women employed part-time in standard academic appointments, 37 per cent are Professors and 43 per cent are Assistant Professors or Lecturers (see Figure 3). Carrying out a similar exercise for the men (Figure 4) reveals that 57 per cent are in the Professorial grade with 23 per cent in the Lecturer grade. In other words, in accordance with full-time staff ratios, amongst part-time employees males are considerably more likely to be Professors and less likely to be Lecturers.

Temporary employment
Temporary employment contracts are unsurprisingly most commonly found amongst the Research grades (see Appendix Table A1 of the full report). Table 2 presents data for all staff (full-time and part-time, permanent and fixed term) in panel 1; panel 2 lists those staff who are on fixed term contacts; and panel 3 lists those fixed term employees who are also employed part-time.

Much of the information in Table 2 has already been presented and discussed above, for example, the fixed term and part-time status for Assistant Professors or Lecturers and Researchers is presented in Table 1. However, Table 2 also presents this information for Professors and Senior Researchers. Combining part-time and full-time staff, temporary and permanent staff, women constitute: 34.6 per cent of Assistant Professors or Lecturers, 25.8 per cent of Readers or Associate Professors, and 15.5 per cent of Professors (see panel 1 of Table 2).

Reading across the columns in panel 1 of Table 2 reveals that, in total, there are 529 Professors, 82 of whom (15.5 per cent) are female. The Professors constitute 25.6 per cent of all academic staff (column 5). Of these Professors, 47 are working on a fixed-term contract (see panel 2), 3 of whom (or 2.3 per cent) are female. Only 9 per cent (47 out of 529) of the Professors are on a fixed term contract, amounting to 2.3 per cent of all staff (column 5) and 10.1 per cent of all the fixed term staff are Professors (column 6).

Table 2. Employment function: All academic staff, fixed term staff, 
fixed term and part-time staff (responding sample, 2016).

Source: RES Women's Committee Survey, 2016

Panel 3 (combined with Panel 2) reveals that a majority of the academics working on a fixed-term contract are also working part-time (267 out of the 466 or 57 per cent), as are all three female Professors working on a fixed-term contract (reading down column 1). About 71 per cent of the Researchers are employed on a fixed term basis and 47 per cent of these are also working part-time.3 In contrast, only 7.5 per cent of the academic staff are working part-time. Researchers are disproportionately more likely to be female, and male economists working on fixed term and part-time appointments are more likely to be at the senior ranks than are female economists.

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). Table 3 reports for all academic staff (in the verified web survey) the proportion of Readers/Associate Professors/Senior Lecturers and Lecturers who are female in departments with and without a female Professor. The first four rows of the first column of Table 3 provide alternative ranges of the percentage of staff below the grade of Professor that are female. The second column relates specifically to departments with at least one female Professor, and the third column to those departments with no female Professors. For example, considering the first row of Table 3, there are four departments where less than 10 per cent of their non-professorial staff is female. Of these four departments, two of them have a female Professor. Similarly, row four reveals that there were also 26 departments (47 per cent of of the sample) with more than 30 per cent of their Reader/Associate Professor/Senior Lecturer or Lecturer posts held by women: 10 of these departments lack a female Professor. Considering the final rows of Table 3, in aggregate, departments with a female Professor had an average of 29.2 per cent of female staff in non-professorial job ranks; in departments with no female professor this proportion was 33 per cent. Additionally, departments with at least one female Professor are larger in size, as measured by the number of staff below Professor (30.4 relative to 15.1). There is little indication that the presence of at least one Professorial woman in a department enhances the representation of women more generally in that department. Taken in combination, the simple evidence presented in Table 3 does not provide compelling support for the role model hypothesis (a similar conclusion was reached for the 2006, 2008, 2010, and 2012 surveys, see Georgiadis and Manning, 2007; Mumford, 2009; Blanco and Mumford, 2011; Blanco, Mitka, Mumford and Roman, 2013; Mitka, Mumford and Sechel, 2015).

Research discipline
Information on the research discipline of academic staff was requested as part of the survey sent to departments. Table 4 presents results for economists in standard academic appointments (full or part-time) in CHUDE departments from the verified survey (additional information including discipline breakdown by rank and within research institutions is provided in Tables A3 and A4 of the Appendix). Column 4 shows that the most popular research disciplines are the core areas of Microeconomics (15.8 per cent of all staff); Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics (13.8 per cent); Financial Economics (9.5 per cent), and Mathematical and Quantitative Methods (8.6 per cent); and Economic Development, Technological Change and Growth (7.9 per cent).4 These, together with Labour and Demographic Economics, are also the research areas which are the most common amongst the Professors (see column 7 of Table 4), although the ordering is slightly different, with Labour and Demographic Economics featuring third in the rankings (8.9 per cent of Professors).

Table 3. Proportion of female academic staff below Professor, CHUDE departments only 
(responding sample, 2016 survey)

Source: RES Women’s Committee Survey, 2016.

The five most popular research areas for women (see column 6) are Microeconomics; Financial Economics; Economic Development, Technological Change and Growth; Labour and Demographic Economics; and Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics. There are some differences in the ordering between men and women, however, (as can be seen by comparing columns 5 and 6 of Table 4). Men and women both have as the most popular area Microeconomics (15.7 per cent of the men and 15.9 per cent of the women). The second most popular choice for both women and men differs: men favor Macroeconomics and Monetary Policy and women favor Financial Economics (at 15.4 per cent and 10.3 per cent, respectively). Women then opt for Economic Development, Technological Change and Growth and Labour and Demographic Economics (9.4 per cent and 9.7 per cent respectively) and men opt for Mathematical and Quantitative Methods (9.1 per cent) and Financial Economics (9.2 per cent). For their fifth choice women favor Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics whilst men choose Economic Development, Technological Change and Growth.

Column 8 of Table 4 provides the percentage of all those choosing that research discipline who work in a department scoring above 3 in the last REF exercise. Of the 1657 standard academic appointments, 811 or 48.9 per cent worked in these higher ranked departments. In row one of Table 4, we can see that of the 73 staff choosing General Economics and Teaching, 22 (or 30 per cent) of these staff members worked in a department scoring above three (see also Table A4 in the full report). There are some small number issues (reading across columns 3, 4 and 8) suggesting caution when interpreting the percentages in column 8. Nevertheless, combining columns 3 and 8, the table suggests that departments with higher REF scores have a significant proportion of staff specializing in the core research areas mentioned above.

Table 4. Main research discipline, by gender (responding sample 2016, CHUDE depts only).

Source: RES Women’s Committee Survey, 2016

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 from the data set. As the web based surveys are tracking individuals, we can 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). Before 2010, the Women’s Committee data on promotions only included promotions that were internal to departments and total staff movements were essentially gross rather than net. (For comparison sake, full and balanced sample (from the 2016 and 2014 surveys) analysis using the previous gross sample measures is provided in Appendix tables A5 to A7 of the full report.)

Table 5 presents staff movements in the 2015/16 academic year from the 2016 respondents survey (i.e. the verified returns). 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 actually 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 some small gains were made in the 2015/16 time period via promotions, especially amongst Professors and Readers.

Table 5. Staff movements 2015/2016 (responding sample 2016)

Panel two of Table 5 provides information on hiring in the 2015/16 academic year: columns 9 to 12 present information on new staff hired in the last year. This is staff entering the sector; and columns 13 to 16 are hires across UK departments. The sub-sample of respondents to this question is particularly small so the numbers should be read with caution. We can see that there were 192 economists hired from outside of the UK academic sector (column 11) in the 2015/16 academic year, and a further 29 economists hired from other UK departments (column 15). Hires from outside of the UK academic sector are relatively less likely to be female than are either hires from within the sector (comparing columns 12 and 16), or internal promotions into the grade rank (column 4). Comparing columns 9 to 12 in Table 5 with columns 1 to 4 in Table 2, suggests that these external hires are typically lowering the proportion female academics in each rank. In aggregate, the representation of women amongst the hiring inflow seems to have contributed very little to improve the overall representation of women in the stock by rank (column 21).

The third flow affecting the stock of academic economists is, of course, leavers (see panel 3 of Table 6). In aggregate, women make up a similar proportion of these separations as they do of the total pool of academic economists (28 per cent relative to 28.3 per cent, columns 20 and 21).

Information on the job leaver’s destination was also gathered (see Table 6).The most common destination employment for the job leavers is to another academic appointment (170 out of the 302 leavers reporting destination or 56 per cent of those reporting destination) followed by ‘unknown job’ (28 per cent of those reporting destination), implying considerable churning within the sector, with non-employment taking up a further 6 per cent. The proportion of female economists across job leavers (28.4 per cent) is similar to the female share of the total workforce. A high proportion of leavers go on to other academic appointments (51 out of 104 female leavers reporting destination or 52 per cent, and 58.3 per cent of male leavers) or to unknown jobs (33.7 per cent of the female leavers, and 25.5 per cent of the males). The relative findings for the UK and EU destinations suggest an international marketplace exists for academic economists, both male and female, and that female economists move in a similar proportion to their presence in the workforce.

Table 6. Job leavers' destinations

Source: RES Women’s Committee Survey, 2016.

The 2016 survey also asks departments about the reasons for these separations (see Table 7), the responses were not overly informative (in 59 per cent of the cases, there are ‘other’, ‘unknown’ or ‘missing’ responses). Of the remaining 245 cases, roughly one in four leavers moved for a promotion (32 per cent of the female leavers, 24 per cent of the males); 17.6 per cent retired (5.5 per cent of females leavers, 22.7 per cent of the males); about 5.7 per cent cited family reasons for quitting their jobs (11 per cent of the female leavers and only 3.5 per cent of the male leavers); and 47.3 per cent reported that they had reached the end of their contract. The higher proportion of female leavers due to family reasons might reflect the combination of family tasks falling more heavily on women and insufficient family-friendly work practices in UK departments.

Table 7. Reasons for leaving

Source: RES Women’s Committee Survey, 2016.

The conclusions have been amply foreshadowed. The analysis of the 2016 survey data indicate that the great majority of economists working in academia in the UK have standard academic (teaching and research as opposed to research-only) jobs which are full-time and permanent. Based on evidence from the 2016 respondents’ survey, women make up about 28 per cent of the total academic economics workforce.

Over the past twenty years, the progress has been steady — though slow. Comparing the 2016 sample results to those of our first survey in 1996, the proportion of the workforce that is female has increased from 17.5 per cent of the workforce in 1996 to 28 per cent in 2016. The overall rank composition of the workforce has also changed: the share of Professors (both male and female) amongst all staff has doubled over the time period from 13 per cent of all staff in 1996 to 25.7 per cent in 2016. Women are more than twice as common in the standard academic grades in 2016 than they were in 1996; in 1996 women made up approximately 16.8 per cent of the Lecturers (34.6 per cent in 2016), 9.6 per cent of the Readers/Senior Lecturers/Associate Professors (25.8 per cent in 2016) and 4.2 per cent of the Professors (15.5 per cent in 2016).

Recent changes in the stock of individuals in any job rank due to inflows from new hires, job separations (resignations and retirements), and promotions (within departments) were addressed by tracking individuals’ movements and balanced-sample comparisons across the surveys. The findings indicate that, in contrast to males, female Professors are considerably more likely to be promoted in their own department rather than hired from another department within the UK. Furthermore, hires from outside the UK academic sector are less likely to be female than male academics. A significantly larger share of women tends to leave or resign due to family reasons.

In aggregate, the relative numbers of women are increasing in the higher grade ranks but the rate of change is slow. Comparison with 2014 yields an increase in the proportion of women among academic economists over the two years from 27 per cent to 28.1 per cent in the balanced sample of respondents (and 27.9 per cent to 28.1 per cent in the unbalanced sample). At the current rate of increase, it could take another 50 years before the profession reaches a 50-50 gender balance. Changes in retirement legislation may result in a decline in male exit rates and slow the relative growth in female representation. Similarly, the observed decline in the share of female undergraduate students studying economics may slow down the progress towards more gender balance in economics in the UK.


1. London School of Economics and Chair of the RES Women’s Committee. I am immensely grateful to Diego Battiston and Stephen Maurer for superb research assistance; to Maria Molina Domene, Piero Fortino, and Hillary Stein for helping at different stages of the 2015 and 2016 web-survey data collection process; and to Martin Hannon for sending the departmental surveys and indefatigably chasing responses. I am most thankful to Karen Mumford: the survey design and the report build on her previous work. All errors are mine. (Editor’s note: Silvana Tenreyro stood down as Chair of the Society’s Women’s Committee at the end of April. The Chair is now Sarah Smith).

2. Tables A8 and A9 of the Appendix to the full report list all departments and research institutes surveyed, indicating respondents and non respondents.

3. The majority of Researchers working on part-time fixed-term contracts are found in the Research Institutes.

4. In contrast, within the Research Institutions (see Appendix Table A3 in te full report) the most popular research area is Health, Education and Welfare (nearly half the staff in research institutions work in this discipline area). Economic Development, Technological Change and Growth is the second most relevant research area in these institutions with 18.5 per cent of the staff employed by these research institutions.

5. Note there are 29 missing observations for sector destination (Table 6); 28 for geographic destination (Table 6) and 24 for reasons for leaving (Table 7).


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