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.**

claudiasahm

economist - my views here are my own

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Comments

Women are too sensible to work in the "science" of economics.
2016-07-29, Orca

For me, a blog would fill the same role as teaching. And I already spend far "too much" time on my teaching in the teaching vs. research time trade-off (its optimal from my utility perspective, but sub-optimal from an output perspective).
2016-07-29, Anon

Men have larger egos??? :D I don't know, but I don't think you guys can claim " hey we are being discriminated" or " hey there is this glass ceiling" on this one... Maybe there are just far fewer female famous economics professors, due to other "glass ceilings"... ???
2016-07-29, Moreno Klaus

I don't like personal, or substance-free, bickering (unless the personal is relevant, like if there's good reason to think that there's intentional misleading for ideological reasons or personal gain), but I very much like smart discussion and debate on important subjects and issues, and think it can be a great way to learn and discover. And even though smart discussion and debate can be very contentious, if it's substance and logic based, I would not call it bickering. I think it's a very good way to get at the truth, and I do enjoy that.
A willingness to admit you've been mistaken, if good evidence and logic is offered to show you have, is also very important. But a lot of that comes down to are you discussing and debating to get at the truth and understanding, or just to win, regardless of the truth, to advance your ideology, or for personal gain. I'd much rather lose and admit I was mistaken, and learn, than win, but for many this is not the case.
2016-07-29, Richard H. Serlin

Perhaps since legs, cleavage, and tears aren't effective in on-line arguments, most women feel inadequate to host an argumentative blog/commentary site?
2016-07-29, Li Zhi

On 2, you give what is perhaps the biggest chunk of other service - ".. there is family too" - the least attention. I suspect reason 3 is at least as important as 2. The econ blogosphere really does sometimes resemble contact sport.
Orca, the question is: given the proportion of female economists, why are there so few female econ bloggers?
Moreno Claus, why are you introducing this notion of discrimination. I don't think that is what Claudia has in mind, at all. That men are more competitive on average is a fairly robust finding. To the extent that some of the competitive behaviour among bloggers might be purely for the sake of competition itself, it may be more off-putting to women than men, on average.
2016-07-29, CMC

The comments over at Mark Thoma's blog have a variety of useful information on this subject. Of course, it's factually based and as a consequence, not PC. Some of the comments are mine. See below.
"So why are there so few female economic bloggers?"
This isn't that hard... Men tend to dominate most activities that depends on independent activity. Stated differently, men tend to dominate activities that require "putting yourself out there".
The open source community provides a good example. One study found 2.5 million contributions from men and 150,000 from women. I would argue the ratio is a bit high because programming is probably more male dominated that economics.
Note that the same study found that the Open Source is actually (slightly) biased in favor of women. See "Before You Get Too Excited About That GitHub Study…" (http://slatestarcodex.com/2016/02/12/before-you-get-too-excited-about-that-github-study/)
Why men tend to dominate activities that require a person "to put yourself out there" is a deeper question. Larry Summers had some serious and useful comments on this subject a few years ago.
of course, he was pilloried for daring to attempt rational inquiry on the subject. His subsequent recantations were right out of a Soviet show trial.
2016-07-30, Peter Schaeffer

I have noticed the dearth. There are lots of women out there blogging about writing, history, literature, physics, astronomy, biology and travel, though there are a lot fewer in other fields. Chemistry, for example, has surprisingly few. I think some of it is a result of the way we "gender" various fields. If the field is seen as having a feminine side, women are more likely to blog, but if it is exclusively gendered masculine, women are less likely to do so.
I remember going to museums and seeing ancient wine cups, some designated as men's wine cups and others as women's wine cups. In our culture, men and women swill wine from the same types of glasses, so at first I didn't get this. Then I went to a drugstore and realized that men and women have different perfume bottles. They didn't even call the scent in men's perfume bottles perfume! It was a revelation.
2016-07-30, Kaleberg

It is indeed surprising to see the dearth of females in the econ blogoshpere. I know of some female economists that started blogging but then eventually fizzled out. Here is a new one, with a focus on gender issues. https://sanukriti.wordpress.com/
2016-07-30, Anonymous

I'm a blogger on a feminist science blog who writes about statistics and economics. Typically I tear apart terrible studies that are being reported on in the media while using that as an in to teach about a particular statistics topic. Every time I wrote about anything quantitative some men will accuse me of having no idea what I'm writing about and being "just a blogger." I've had men accuse me in public during a Q&A after a panel where I spoke about some econ topics of not having any academic training in economics. When I pointed out that I did actually have a graduate degree and have a career as a data scientist he accused me of lying. This is why women don't write about economics. It's frustrating and draining to deal with the onslaught of men who seem angry that a woman would dare to encroach on their territory. Typically these men are not economists or statisticians themselves and seem to merely be angry that a woman would be an expert in those areas. It seems hardly surprising to me that many women would not consider econ blogging to be worth dealing with the waves of gendered harassment they will get in return.
2016-07-30, Jamie

This is all interesting, but I think great part of the problem still lies on women again performing 2, 3, 4 and more jobs in this patriarchal society. So yes, we did, we are professionally and financially independent (well, some of us), but we still struggle to have support to perform this role and at the same time perform the ‘traditional’ role of being a wife and a mother. That is why so many of us have given up of the traditional role in order to actually being able to achieve something professionally. Blogging now is another job that request time, but the question is still the same: where is the support for it? And this question is directly and specifically for husbands, partners and the like. What I'm trying to say is that I would love to see a survey on what the wives of the male bloggers do. I would risk saying the traditional nuclear family division play a massive role in FREEING TIME for male bloggers. Whereas for women the same nuclear division actually stops us from blogging, I suppose. Maybe some questions to address would be: considering the female bloggers out there right now, how many are married with small kids? How many are married with grown up kids? How many are single? Or married with no kids? Or may be we should ask if many of us are not blogging or twittering in late evenings or early mornings in order to spend time with our kids or to make our even daily chores? (it continues below)
2016-07-30, Carolina

I have a very small sample next to me, and it is restrict to academia, but for what is worth: the majority of my female friends who finished their PhD, got a job and decided to have kids were out of the picture or were not very active (twitter or facebook, or even congresses and events) for a minimum of 2 years (and now they are struggling to regain their space), while ALL my male friends who finished their PhD, got a job and decided to have kids had NO BREAK in their academic career. They did not disappeared, and to be fair, some of them, as young scholar, were more productive than ever…including BLOGGING. So my question is: how is this possible? The three points you mentioned are valid and possible true, but we should be careful to not add more pressure on us when not addressing, discussing and changing the structural conditions the put us, women, in such situation in the first place.
2016-07-30, Carolina

Women are different from men and, as adults, they have free will and agency and make different choices than men do.
There - simple answer. And correct, on top of it.
2016-07-30, PJay

I suspect Internet comment thread culture is more offensive to women participants than the idea of female participants are to comment threads. If you expect civility and polite respectful discourse in political anonymous comment threads, you will be disappointed.
2016-07-31, kind_commenter

"Women are different from men and, as adults, they have free will and agency and make different choices than men do.
There - simple answer. And correct, on top of it." - from PJay. That makes sense.
Also, the women commenting saying I gave up because someone disagreed or called me names are just showing that they don't believe in the work that they are doing. If you think you have something valuable to offer then continue contributing. Haters will hate but you win over by showing what you got rather than just claiming "I could have done it but gave up because of xxx". Those statements bring you no respect.
2016-08-01, pimp

As a woman who has studied economics and also done blogging, I think part of it has to do with a level of comfort expressing opinions about new topics one isn't that familiar with. I personally feel like I have to have a solid understanding of something before I am comfortable critiquing it in public, but many men aren't socialized to feel this way, and this kind of quick, decisive thought/bravado can be rewarded in blogging. Just last week, a friend of mine told me he disagreed with a study, even though I had only given him a few sentences of summary about its findings. "Well... maybe you should actually read the study first."
The world could only benefit from having more women economics bloggers.
2016-08-01, Hildy

I openly call myself an "amateur economist" because I think love a better motivation for studying economic relationships instead of the outmoded methods of economic warriors. The latter seem mostly interested in defining who's on top and who wins, whether one is conversing, blogging or trading on Wall Street or in large corporations. Economics waged as war is fairly called Screwnomics, my word for our current system's foundational, though unspoken theory: that females ought always to work for less, or better for free (at home where they belong and have babies). Without the assumption of female generative powers in biology on the planet and free labor reproduction for the free market, there would be no profit--an historically masculine idea rooted in claiming the female as property. So how can we make our exchanges more equal, reciprocal and diverse, like genetic ones? It will take a dancing revolution--a series of taking turns, not a battle.
2016-11-01, Rickey Gard Diamond

Anybody, male or female, who is puzzled by this situation hasn't been paying very much attention to the real world! Nor the online world, for that matter.
2016-11-21, Sean

Frances Woolley blogs on Worthwhile Canadian Initiative. Are there any other group blogs where some of the members are women?
2016-12-10, Linda Welling

For a good time, read Northwestern's Lynne Kiesling's The Knowledge Problem;
https://knowledgeproblem.com/
Lynne is one of the country's top experts on electricity markets, and other energy sources. She's trained as an economic historian too, and is also an exceptionally agreeable person.
2016-12-10, Patrick R. Sullivan


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