women and econ blogs
I enjoy reading econ blogs. Mark Thoma's daily links get me through my metro commute. Tyler Cowen's assorted links remind me there's more to economics than economics. And the other 80+ blogs in my RSS reader plus all the goodies in my Twitter feed give me plenty to ponder. And so, I nodded along to Giles Wilkes' FT piece this week "How I learnt to love the economic blogosphere."
Well until I saw this in my Twitter mentions ...
... me as an after-thought female blogger. And this wasn't the first time. Miles Kimball wrote a post on his blogging "friends and sparring partners," again all of them were men. I did not notice when I read it but again a woman on Twitter asked where are the female bloggers? Miles cobbled on an addendum. At the time I didn't even have a blog so I was doubly embarrassed by being listed. But it's true, very few female economists blog. Period.
So why are there so few female economic bloggers?
Causality and identification are all the rage in economics ... I spent hours this week mulling over more dueling research on whether looser credit caused the Great Recession or mistaken expectations for income and house prices ... or some complicated mix of both (my prior).
For all the time economists have spent cooking up instruments for the supply of credit
... maybe we could get just one for the supply of female bloggers? Ok, scoff at the parallel but the limited diversity in the economic profession may have its costs too. And on the margin, it might be worth thinking about.
Here are some of my hypotheses:
1. Women with opinions are not well received.
I have heard this one but I am not so sure. My gateway to tweeting and blogging was commenting on Marginal Revolution. I was tolerated (very few women comment there) but it was clear that some of the other commenters did not appreciate a woman with an opinion. I was once told that I was an example of why women should not have gotten the vote, hmm. In contrast, I have felt perfectly welcome in econ-dork Twitter. Blogging is harder because my words sit still and there are more of them at once, making them easier to judge. Still, I think my inability to keep a blog going for long ... for example, an earlier post about women in economics killed my ello account ... has more to do with where I have worked than with my gender.
2. Women are busy with other forms of service.
I once had someone suggest that I write documentation instead of tweeting. I do appreciate well-documented code, but it is not quite as fun as Twitter. But seriously, many economist positions do not lend themselves well to blogging. There are many women working in government as economists ... I have never seen more female macroeconomists than at the Fed and I've enjoyed getting to know other female economists in government via DCWEP. But public service and blogging can be pretty tricky. And for junior women in academia it may be even riskier to blog. I don't understand why so few senior women in academia blog. Diane Coyle is one of the only I can think of ... their absence makes me think blogging is a mistake. And of course, service goes beyond work ... there's family too.
3. Women underestimate what they would contribute by blogging.
Blogs, for all their interesting ideas, have a bit of egos running amok too. It takes a lot of confidence to offer up opinions and argue your position with others. Now most economists need some measure of confidence to do their work, but is it fun for everyone? Would you choose to keep sparring in your free time? I have sat in meetings with two male economists basically yelling at each other over something unknowable ... they finish and walk away pleased with their digs and I am drained just by listening. So while I enjoy blogs, I also read fast and try not dwell on the bickering. It makes me sad. It is easy to think that showmanship is a part of blogging and maybe women are less likely to enjoy that. Or the ones who do are less likeable. But really blogs are about sharing ideas and all economists have plenty of ideas. Plus it is a very flexible format ... though maybe it is harder for women to imagine themselves as econ bloggers given the current landscape? I think it's fun and I like the challenge of trying to talk about economics in a more personal and accessible way.
As with a lot causality debates, the reason why there are few women blogging is probably a complex mix of factors. But it's nothing set in stone either. In fact, I am always happy to see other women on Twitter, blogging ... or more generally voicing their opinion on economics. There is plenty of work to go around!
**Opinions here are mine and should not to be attributed to anyone with whom I work.**