October 2015 newsletter – Highs and Lows with the Women’s Committee Surveys

The following report on the 10th and most recent of the surveys carried out by the Society’s Committee on Women in the Economics Profession was prepared by Karen Mumford.1

This report covers the tenth survey of gender balance in academic employment in economics in the UK in a series started in 1996 by the Royal Economic Society (RES) Women’s Committee and repeated biennially thereafter A conscious effort is made to maintain continuity in the survey content and process; the full reports (and newsletter synthesis) are directly comparable across time. Nevertheless, the reports have become more extensive and major advances were made with the addition of departmental web-based information in 2010 and the inclusion of REF submission information in this report.

In November 2014, the Women’s Committee surveyed the web pages of ninety two CHUDE (Conference of Heads of University Departments of Economics) departments, seven non-CHUDE departments, and fifteen leading research institutes. 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 February 2015. The overall verified survey response rate from the 114 institutions is reasonable at 84 per cent (88 per cent or 81 responses from the 92 CHUDE departments, 57 per cent or 4 responses from the 7 non-CHUDE departments, and 73 per cent or 11 responses from the 15 research institutes).

Summary of main findings
• women constitute some 27 per cent of all academic staff in UK 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;
• some 15 per cent of males and females have part-time employment in the sector, these males are more often found in senior positions than the females;
• men and women share similar research disciplines, the most popular research discipline for both is microeconomics;
• male and female student enrolments in economics have risen over the last decade. The relative number of female UK (domicile) PhD students in economics has stayed comparatively stable at around 30 per cent, however, amongst the undergraduates female representation has declined considerably (from 30.6 per cent to 27.4 per cent of the full-time and 41.2 per cent to 28.4 per cent of the part-time UK students).

It is also of interest to compare the results from the 2014 survey with that from 2012. Balanced sample comparison is less than perfect; nevertheless, the overall impression is:

• the proportion of women among academic economists increased from 24 per cent to 27 per cent 
• the representation of women in each grade rank shows small increases 
• female Professors are more commonly promoted within their department than hired into the grade from outside
• job separations are rarer for more 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 2014 balanced sample results to those from earlier surveys:

• in aggregate, the proportion of the workforce that is female has increased substantially over the eighteen years of surveys (in 1996 women made up 17.5 per cent of the workforce, by 2014 this has risen to 27 per cent)
• the numbers of Professors amongst all staff has doubled over the time period (from 14 per cent of all staff to 28 per cent)
• women are more than twice as common in the standard academic grades in 2014 than they were in 1996; in 1996 women made up approximately 15 per cent of the Lecturers (31 per cent in 2014), 10 per cent of the Readers/Senior Lecturers (27 per cent in 2014) and 5 per cent of the Professors (14 per cent in 2014).

For the first time, the Women’s Committee survey has been able to track the submission of individuals in the Research Excellence Framework (REF) exercise, the preliminary results are:

• less than half (46.8 per cent) of the total academic economic workforce were submitted; some two thirds of the professors and one third of the lecturers. 
• women were considerably less likely to be submitted; 50 per cent of the male academic economists in the CHUDE departments were submitted and 38 per cent of the females.
• there is little difference in the gender of those submitted at the higher grade ranks with two thirds of the Professors and Readers being submitted, however, only 31 per cent of the female lectures were submitted compared to 39 per cent of the males.
• departments with higher REF GPA scores submitted a greater proportion of their staff, but they also had a lower proportion of female staff.
• the long run implications of so few staff being submitted, especially the female Lecturers, is very concerning and will be explored more fully by the Women’s Committee.

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 aggregate, information is available for 2,862 people who work as economists in academic appointments in the UK, 767 (or 26.8 per cent) of whom are women.

The vast majority of these economists (82 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 (72.9 per cent and 85.5 per cent, respectively). If the research-only categories are excluded from the calculation, women make up 24.8 per cent of the standard full-time academic workforce (or 516 out of 2,078 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. For example, amongst full time staff, the proportion female decreases from 32 per cent of the Permanent Lecturers, to 21.5 per cent of the Readers and 14.3 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 37 per cent are Readers or Senior Lecturers. Slightly less than one in every two of the women is a Lecturer and about one in six is a Professor. Carrying out a similar exercise for the men (Figure 2) reveals that 34 per cent of the males are in the Professorial grade with another 34 per cent in the Reader/Senior Lecturer grades. Males are twice as likely to be Professors, and are substantially less likely to be Lecturers, than are females.

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: some 14.6 per cent of female and 15.5 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, 7.7 per cent of the women work part-time whilst 12.8 per cent of the males do. Women are particularly prevalent amongst the Researchers and Lecturers with permanent part-time contracts.

Considering the women employed part-time in standard academic appointments, 42 per cent are Professors and 37 per cent are Lecturers (see Figure 3). Carrying out a similar exercise for the men (Figure 4) reveals that 66 per cent are in the Professorial grade with 21 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.

The full survey report also includes information on fixed or permanent contracts. The vast majority of the Professors reported to be working on a fixed term contract are also working part-time (117 out of the 123 or 95.1 per cent); all of the 13 female Professors working on a fixed term contract are working part-time. It is our strong suspicion that many of the Professors working part-time in fixed-term contracts have entered into phased retirement programmes. In contrast, 38.9 per cent of the Senior Researchers are employed on a fixed term basis and 87.3 per cent of these are also working part-time. Researchers are particularly prone to be on a fixed term contract (62 per cent) and 29 per cent of these academics are working part-time. Researchers are disproportionately more likely to be female, and males working on fixed term and part-time appointments are more likely to be at the senior ranks than are the females.

Analysis by REF results
During the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF) exercise individual academic staff members within the CHUDE departments responding to our survey could be submitted to and rated under different Units of Assessment (UoA). We traced individuals for six of these UoA (Economics and Econometrics; Business and Management; Health Services; History; Geography; and Area Studies). Figure 5 shows the proportion of staff submitted to any of these six UoA. In total, less than half (46.8 per cent) of the UK academic economics workforce were submitted; some two thirds of the Professors and slightly more than one third of the Lecturers.

Figure 6 shows the submission rate by gender, comparison of the total columns reveals a striking gender differential; 49.7 per cent of the males and only 37.5 per cent of the females submitted. This gender gap varies substantially as we move down the academic ranks; there is negligible difference for Professors or Readers being submitted with some two thirds of both having an entry, however, there is an increasing tendency for males to be submitted as the grade levels lower (with only 39 per cent of the male lecturers being submitted and 31 per cent of the female lecturers).

If we focus on the submissions to the two most common UoAs in our survey, in total, men were more than 25 per cent more likely to be submitted in the Economic and Econometrics dominated submission departments and 30 per cent more likely to be submitted in the Business and Management dominated submission departments than were women.

It may also be argued that there is a relationship between the presentation of women in a department and the department’s success in the Research Excellence Framework (REF). This is an issue that has been explored in previous Women’s Committee reports with the earlier RAE, without convincing results supporting the hypothesis. Of the 71 responding departments that entered the REF exercise, 18 departments scored an ‘overall published grade point average’ for the institution for the dominant UoA above 3 (1,091 staff members employed), 30 departments scored above 2.5 but equal to or below 3 (938 staff), and 23 departments scored 2.5 or below (338 staff). Departments with a high REF GPA submitted a higher proportion of staff to the REF (53.3 per cent), followed by departments with a middle GPA (47.3 per cent), and lastly departments with a low GPA (37.9 per cent). Men are considerably less likely to have been submitted to the REF exercise, across all the three REF overall GPA bands; men are some 25 per cent more likely to be submitted (22.6 per cent in the lowest band, 30.5 per cent in the middle band, and 23.4 per cent in the top band).

There are clearly potentially confounding factors at play with gender, rank and REF submission. The substantial difference in REF submission rates across the genders, especially prevalent amongst Lecturers, is an obvious area of concern not least because of the potential long-term career implications for those left out of the REF. This is an issue the Women’s Committee is currently investigating further.

Staff changes over time
As discussed in the full report, the grade rank composition of the total workforce has changed dramatically between 1996 and 2014: the proportion of Professors has increased by 97 per cent (from 14.2 per cent to 27.9 per cent of the total workforce); the proportion of Readers and Senior Lecturers has increased by 61 per cent; whilst Lecturers are about 30 per cent less prevalent. Strikingly, there are slightly fewer Lecturers and Researchers in 2014 in absolute terms relative to 1996, despite the strong growth in the total workforce.

Figure 7 plots the percentage of women amongst the total UK academic economics workforce (including research grades) and amongst the standard academic workforce for each of the 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 7 (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 8. 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 2014, these ratios have essentially tripled for Professors and Senior Lecturer/Readers, and doubled for Lecturers.

These intertemporal changes are more clearly seen in Figures 9 (and 10) which show the percentage of full-time female (male) UK academic economists by rank over time, using the unbalanced samples from each of the biennial surveys. (This is directly comparable information to that presented in Figures 1 (and 2) for the longer time period.) In 1996, roughly one in every two males was a Lecturer and one in four males a Professor or Senior Lecturer/Reader. By 2014, these proportions have changed dramatically with roughly one in three men a Lecturer, and two thirds of men a Professor or Senior Lecturer/Reader (see Figure 2). The 1996 position for women was vastly different to the males, 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 eighteen year 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 over the next few years. Figure 10 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 2014) will obviously result in a fall in the proportion of the job rank who are 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 14 per cent of the total number of full-time Professors. The major source of growth in the pool of Professors in the last two decades is due to higher inflows in which women have had an increasing presence. However, changing the retirement legislation 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 result in lower relative numbers of women amongst the Professors in the next few years.

Trends in enrolment by gender discussed in the October 2014 newsletter are found to continue with the extra two years of data included in our latest survey. The Women’s Committee surveys stopped asking departments for information on student enrolment in 2006 as a reaction to a low response rate in the 2004. The data presented below have been obtained from the Higher Education Statistical Association (HESA) for the time period 2002/3 to 2013/14. (Data for the more recent academic year, 2014/15, was not available from HESA when this report was being completed.) Earlier data are available from HESA (indeed the 1996 report included HESA data for 1994), however, a break in the series prior to the 2002/3 academic year limits comparability. 

Figure 11 presents full time undergraduate students numbers in the UK by gender and nationality. The number of male UK (domicile) students has increased substantially over the last 7 years resulting in a considerable rise over the time period considered (from 11,341 students in 2002 to 14,705 students in 2013, or a 23 per cent increase). In contrast, the growth in the numbers of female UK students has been more moderate (from 5,010 students in 2002 to 5,631 students in 2013) resulting in an 11 per cent increase over the eleven years.

An increasing gender gap is also apparent amongst the increasingly rare UK part-time students in economics(see Figure 12). The non-UK part-time students are, in contrast, comparatively equally distributed across the genders.

The relative decline in the female undergraduate enrolments in Figures 11 and 12 is obvious in Figure 13 which plots the percentage of the student body female; declining from some 30.6 per cent to 27.7 per cent of the full-time, and 41.2 per cent to 28.4 per cent of the part-time, UK domiciled students. 

Figures 14a (and 15a) present similar information for Masters (and PhD) students in economics in the UK. Amongst graduate students, UK students are clearly in the minority although they have increased their numbers over the decade. Males are typically more common amongst the graduate student body; however, since the 2009/10 academic year females have become more prevalent amongst the non-UK Masters students.

The gender enrolment gap amongst the UK Masters students (Figure 14b) shows some fluctuation with women falling from being a little below 37 per cent of this student body in 2002 to less than 33 per cent of it in 2013. The relative representation of women amongst the increasing numbers of UK PhD students also fluctuates a little but has risen slightly over the time period (from 28 per cent to 30 per cent) as shown in Figure 15b; however, this gender gap has been declining in since 2009.

In summary, the UK has seen increases in the numbers of students studying economics at all levels (undergraduate and graduate) over the last decade. Amongst UK (domiciled) undergraduate students, enrolments have risen faster for males than females leading to considerable increases in the male relative to the female participation rates at the undergraduate level. In total, women now make up less than a third of the undergraduate students studying economics. This is another area of concern for the Royal Economic Society which it is currently exploring further.

The full Women’s Committee 2014 survey report contains substantially more information on these and other related topics, it can be found here:

Mitka, Malgorzata, Mumford, Karen, and Sechel, Cristina. The 10th Royal Economic Society Women’s Committee Survey: The Gender Balance of Academic Economics in the UK 2014. July 2015.

1. Karen Mumford is Chair of the RES Women’s Committee and a Professor in Economics at the University of York.