Danielle Wood from the Grattan Institute has an op-ed in The Conversation talking about the need to recruit more women into the economics profession – as opposed to having (more) women study economics and then use the disciple as a tool for some other purpose. Mind you, her argument is a bit confused as she seems to employ a very broad definition of what is an economist. For example, she looks at the gender ratio of AFR op-ed columnists over the last six months – but there is no reason to believe that only economists write op-eds for the AFR. She invokes RBA governor Philip Lowe as an example of a senior economist – but while he has an economics education he is actually a banker (or a bureaucrat if you prefer).
Nonetheless there is a wide gender imbalance amongst economists tending to be more male than female (my perception is that the imbalance has reduced over time).
What struck me though was this line:
Too many “like” individuals reduces the range of perspectives informing decisions.
What? Economists are like-minded because they are predominately male? The first reaction wold be argue that economists are like-minded because they share a common disciplinary base. But, of course, economists are not really like minded at all. Step up Ken Henry – admittedly a male (not that I want to assume his gender or anything, but I have no reason to believe that he identifies as anything other than male):
THE Treasury chief, Ken Henry, has re-entered the tax debate, issuing an extraordinary call for economists and tax experts to ”put down their weapons” and get behind proposals such as the resources super profits tax.
Briefly interrupting an overseas holiday to address a conference in Sydney on the outcome of the tax review he led, he said it was ”unbelievably frustrating, incredibly frustrating” for people advising governments of both stripes that economists seemed ”loath to come to a consensus position on anything”.
”Whenever an idea is ventured publicly by a person, whether that person is a policy adviser or whether it’s a government minister, there’s at least a handful of academics who will contest it,” he said.
Anyone who has ever attended an economics seminar would find the notion that economists are like-minded quite astonishing.
Then there is the headline (admittedly the headline was probably written by the editor):
Women are dropping out of economics, which means men are running our economy
While the notion of anyone running the economy is a silly idea, I’m happy to admit that the bulk of business decisions made in Australia are made by men and not women. But it isn’t clear to me that economists are making those decisions (be they male or female). On the other hand, to the extent that women are consumers they are making the bulk of economic decisions made in the economy. Step up (another male) Ludwig von Mises:
The real bosses, in the capitalist system of market economy, are the consumers. They, by their buying and by their abstention from buying, decide who should own the capital and run the plants. They determine what should be produced and in what quantity and quality.
Consumers, not economists, “run the economy”.