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Lagarde or Not, Women Still Face Discrimination in Economics

Yuko Takeo

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Hostility and discrimination await women daring to encroach upon the male-dominated world of economics and central banking, according to papers presented at a European Central Bank conference on Monday.

The research shows that the much-celebrated rise of Christine Lagarde -- a lawyer and politician, not an economist or central banker -- to become the ECB’s first-ever female president is atypical for her gender.

Among the presentations in Frankfurt, a study presented by Northeastern University’s Alicia Modestino coded interactions between speakers and their audiences at several hundred economics seminars. It showed that female speakers have a greater share of their seminar time taken up by audience members, and are more likely to be asked hostile questions.

“Economics has a distinctively aggressive seminar culture,” said Modestino. “This paper is the first systematic attempt at quantitatively measuring whether the seminar culture leads to disparate treatment.”

Read more: BOE’s Haldane Calls for More Gender, Ethnicity Pay Gap Reporting

A report by the Bank of Spain showed that submissions of papers with all-female authors to economics conferences are 3.2% less likely to be accepted than papers with all-male authors papers, even after controlling for a number of factors. That gap was entirely driven by male referees favoring papers written by men, according to the authors. Female referees evaluated male and female-authored papers similarly.

The ECB is making an effort to redress its gender imbalance, with quota targets for managerial positions. Policy makers are appointed by governments though, and they’ve done little to help. When Lagarde starts on Nov. 1, she’ll be the only woman on the 25-seat Governing Council.

To contact the reporter on this story: Yuko Takeo in Frankfurt at ytakeo2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Paul Gordon at pgordon6@bloomberg.net, Brian Swint

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