In economics, cracking the glass ceiling

Earlier this year, economics professor Pinelopi Goldberg was named the first female editor in chief of the country’s most prestigious economic journal, the American Economic Review. But Goldberg is an anomaly in her field, and at Yale.

She is one of only three tenured female economics professors at Yale, where no woman in the Economics Department has ever been granted tenure internally; all tenured, female economics professors have been hired after receiving tenure at a different university.

Goldberg, who came to Yale from Columbia in 2001, will take office as editor in chief in January.
Goldberg, who came to Yale from Columbia in 2001, will take office as editor in chief in January.

As she prepares to begin her duties as editor in chief in January, Goldberg, who has worked at the American Economic Review for the past three years, said she hopes women in economics will become more common.

“It’s a symbol of things changing,” Benjamin Polak, Economics Department chair, said of Goldberg’s editorial appointment. “For a long time it’s been hard to encourage women to do economics.”

Polak said the department is aware of its gender imbalance, but he added that while not many junior faculty were women until recently, now about half are female. Polak said the Economics Department is working hard to increase the number of tenured female faculty in the department. No faculty in the department are up for tenure this year.

Since the 2001-’02 academic year, the Economics Department has granted tenure to only two faculty members — both men. The department now has 32 tenured male faculty, compared to three tenured female faculty. Among the 13 members of the junior faculty, however, five are women, Polak said.

“Many of the new stars who are rising up in the profession are women,” he said. “The bad news is we only have three tenured women. The good news is that’s more than we ever had before.”

Goldberg said she thinks the department is interested in promoting women and that cases are treated fairly, but that far fewer of the candidates are female. She added that this has gradually begun to change.

Goldberg came to Yale in 2001 from Columbia University, where she was a professor of economics. As an editor for the American Economic Review, she said she has influenced the field of economics by reading submitted papers, making reports and deciding what is published. After being asked to submit her views on how the journal should be run, a committee in conjunction with the American Economic Association voted her the next editor-in-chief.

As editor, Goldberg said she hopes to ensure that the journal continues to draw contributions from experts with different perspectives and methodologies. She added that holding the editorship and teaching at the same time will be difficult, but she said her exposure to the most recent research questions will make it easier to advise students for the future, especially at the graduate level.

Polak said that, as a policy, the Economics Department does not give time off for faculty to edit journals, and Goldberg will have a full teaching schedule. But he added the department will give support in other ways, for example, by cutting back on required committee work. Polak said he expects that Goldberg will continue to publish as well.

“She’s such a dynamo,” he said. “She’s just going to go on publishing anyway.”

Goldberg proved her ability to juggle academic and outside responsibilities when she had twins 14 years ago. Goldberg gave birth over the winter holiday, and when school started the next week, Goldberg returned to teach.

“I never got a break,” she said. “Working with kids was very difficult. You don’t see them very much, but I think it’s worth doing it. I think it slowed me down for a few years, but I’m glad I didn’t give up.”

About 15 years ago, Polak said, Yale created its current parental leave policy. In fact, Yale’s parental leave policy has become a model for institutions nationally, said Jo Handelsman, a member of the Women’s Faculty Forum and a professor of molecular, cell and developmental biology. Polak, Goldberg and Handelsman all noted that women are up for tenure around the age when they would expect to have children. But women tend to make career choices that avoid conflict, and institutional structures need to change so as not to pressure women to abandon their careers for their families, said Inderpal Grewal, chair of the department of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies.

In fact, Goldberg said she has made some career decisions partly with her family in mind. In 2007, she left Yale for a job at Princeton University, which offered a closer commute to her home in New York City, and was known for its particular strength in the field of international economics. Now Yale has built a sizeable and diverse contingent of international faculty, Goldberg said, and she returned last July and said she is here to stay.

Polak said the department was unaware of her editorship and of her recent Guggenheim Fellowship when it began the process to rehire her.

“We poached her back from Princeton,” Polak said.

Still, Goldberg’s rise in the field of economics has often left her among few women. Goldberg was one of only three women in her Stanford graduate school class of 22, but Goldberg said she never felt uncomfortable as a minority or faced discrimination.

“I think if I ever faced discrimination, I was totally oblivious to it, which was a plus,” she said.

She added that although sometimes gender stereotypes might interfere with how someone is perceived, she does not think anybody would offer a lower salary based on gender. But Grewal noted women across the nation still receive 77 cents for every dollar a man makes.

“The generation who might discriminate is gradually getting older,” Polak added. “[But] I think it’s still true in our society that a lot of people think that it’s OK for women to be less focussed on math and the science subjects. It’s taken a long while to get rid of that convention.”

If such discrimination exists in the working sphere, two women economics majors said they have yet to feel it on campus.

Donna Horning ’13 said both genders were well represented in her introductory classes last year and that she does not anticipate facing discrimination in her field of natural resource economics, into which she said women have already entered. Dilan Gomih ’13 said she was a minority as one of three women in her 14-student “An Introduction to Macroeconomic Analysis” seminar last year, adding that most of her female friends are English and history majors.

But she said that anyone prejudiced against women breaking into the sciences is thinking a century behind.

“In this day in age, I honestly think that women are empowered, and we’re definitely capable of overcoming these biases,” she said. “You can’t deny excellence.”

In the 2009-’10 academic year, 95 of the 300 declared economics majors at Yale were women.


  • YaleMom

    I keep telling my little girl to study Economics, but she won’t listen. She says it’s boring. Thank you for your article, Mrs. Goldberg.

  • Anonymous Bosh

    “[Pinelopi Goldberg, Economics professor] does not think anybody would offer a lower salary based on gender. But [Inderpal Grewal, Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies chair] noted women across the nation still receive 77 cents for every dollar a man makes.”

    You see where I’m going with this? Econ prof–likely facile with, you know, *numbers*–doubts a gender-based wage gap; Silly Studies prof–likely facile with, you know, agenda-based outcomes–feels the need to chime in with the wage-gap myth.

    You see, in a reality-based marketplace, if we could get women to do a “man’s” job for a 20%+ discount we’d be rolling in the dough… but don’t let reality interfere…

    Oh, and don’t take MY word for it, let us chirp on over to, say, the U.S. Department of Labor’s 2009 study “[**An Analysis of the Reasons for the Disparity in Wages Between Men and Women**][1],” which concludes, in part:

    **This study leads to the unambiguous conclusion that the differences in the compensation of men and women are the result of a multitude of factors and that the raw wage gap should not be used as the basis to justify corrective action. Indeed, there may be nothing to correct.**

    You see, after adjusting for relevant factors (fairly obvious ones, too, such as part-time versus full-time, time out for child rearing, family consideration in career decisions, etc.). the “unexplained” gender-wage gap drops to between 5 and 7 percent–and even *THAT* gap “could be explained by including some additional variables within a single comprehensive analysis that considers all of the factors simultaneously; however, such an analysis is not feasible to conduct with available data bases.”

    For a nice summary, check out [economist MJ Perry’s blog][2], which elsewhere analyzes the latest and completely unheralded finding of a [**REVERSE** gender wage gap][3]… (but Professional Whiner, er, “Professor” Grewal won’t be commenting on that, I am sure…).

    A teaser from [Time][4]: “According to a new analysis of 2,000 communities by a market research company, in 147 out of 150 of the biggest cities in the U.S., young women’s median full-time salaries are **8% higher** than those of the guys in their peer group.”

    And a synopsis of the analysis: “In other words, if you control for all of the important variables that contribute to wage differentials (age, marital status, having children, etc.), i.e. impose ceteris paribus conditions, there is **no evidence of gender discrimination**, and **either** there is **no statistically significant wage gap**, *or* now **there’s a wage gap in favor of women**.”

    “Math is hard”; “Let’s go shopping!”


  • Anonymous Bosh

    Oh, and *rock on*, Penny! Love your [stuff][1]. Wish you would produce something less formal for the more popular press though (no, not *Time*!). In other matters, I love how you make all the grad econ boyz [so nervous][2]… Wannabes.


  • Anonymous Bosh

    Ironically, elite institutions will be the last to see the changes already transforming middle America (whatever *that* is) and, within those institutions, the Priests (er… *Priestesses*) of the Victimhood will be the last to recant.

    Recall Larry Summers, drummed out of Harvard for presenting several “provocative” hypotheses to explain the higher proportion of men in high-end science and engineering positions. His second thought (the one that got him fired and cost Harvard $50MM for gender reparations) had to do with the size of the science & engineering candidate pool at the high end (e.g., at Yale):

    “Even small differences in the standard deviation [between genders] will translate into very large differences in the available pool substantially out [from the mean]” (alluding to the higher proportion of men in the distribution tails, i.e., more geniuses, but more idiots and, so, among super-high achievers, a higher number of men than women for the very few number of top slots.
    Fuller quote [**here**][1].

    Contrast this with the very depressing (for men) article in the Atlantic, [**The End of Men,**][2] which I am sure you’ve all read (perhaps even the Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies chair?).

    **Select quotes:**

    “Men dominate just two of the 15 job categories projected to grow the most over the next decade: janitor and computer engineer”

    “[Evidence that the new economics favor women] can be found, most immediately, in the wreckage of the Great Recession, in which three-quarters of the 8 million jobs lost were lost by men.”

    “According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women now hold 51.4 percent of managerial and professional jobs—up from 26.1 percent in 1980. They make up 54 percent of all accountants and hold about half of all banking and insurance jobs. About a third of America’s physicians are now women, as are 45 percent of associates in law firms—and both those percentages are rising fast.”

    “Now the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has voted to investigate what some academics have described as the ‘open secret’ that private schools ‘are discriminating in admissions in order to maintain what they regard as an appropriate gender balance [i.e., at least 50% but less than 60% female].'”

    “A newer method for sperm selection, called MicroSort, is currently completing Food and Drug Administration clinical trials. The girl requests for that method run at about 75 percent.”

    **”In feminist circles, these social, political, and economic changes are always cast as a slow, arduous form of catch-up in a continuing struggle for female equality. “**


  • Anonymous Bosh

    [**Ed. note**: Sorry to have my comments center on Grewal’s mewlings rather than Goldberg’s triumphs, which are many, but I was set off by the YDN’s–or, more particularly, the author’s–offhand “Grewal *noted* women across the nation still receive 77 cents for every dollar a man makes”,’ *noted* as fact with no qualifier, a gospel without need of analysis or scrutiny. Faith, sistah!

    In the future–once males are dispensed with–high-achieving Yale women will have more to fear from the Grewals of the world–hunting and killing all talent/achievement/income disparity–than from The Patriarchy, much less any so-called gender-wage gap…

    Yes, yes: slow day at the coffee shoppe…]