Does Gender Matter to Be Accepted into Economics Conferences?

Author(s): Laura Hospido & Carlos Sanz

In a recent paper, Gender Gaps in the Evaluation of Research: Evidence from Submissions to Economics Conferences, we study gender differences in the evaluation of submissions to economics conferences. 

The economics profession includes disproportionately few women, relative both to the overall population and to other disciplines (Bayer and Rouse 2016). Although economics became less male-dominated over time, the share of women in the profession is currently lower than in STEM fields, and it has remained flat since the mid-2000s (Lundberg and Stearns 2019). Motivated by this fact, we study gender differences in the evaluation of submissions to economics conferences. Conferences are an essential part of academic life. They are useful to receive feedback, improve presentation and communication skills, get to know fellow economists in the field, hear about the latest research, gain visibility, and develop networking and future collaborations. Recent research has shown that conferences increase individuals' likelihood of co-authoring an article with another attendant (Campos, de Leon, and McQuillin 2018) and the likelihood of articles of becoming cited (de Leon and McQuillin 2018). Hence, the presence of gender gaps in the evaluation process may have substantial impact on the professional careers of economists.

We have collected data on more than 9,000 submissions to three general-interest academic conferences: the Annual Congress of the European Economic Association in 2015-2017, the Annual Meeting of the Spanish Economic Association in 2012-2017, and the Spring Meeting of Young Economists in 2018. We find that all-female-authored papers are 3.3 percentage points (p.p.), or 6.8%, less likely to be accepted than all-male-authored papers. This gap is present after accounting for several factors that correlate with gender and acceptance rates: number of authors of the paper; field; referee fixed effects; cites of the paper; authors’ previous publication record, affiliations, and experience; and connections between the authors of a given paper and the referees that evaluate it. We also provide evidence suggesting that the gap is driven by stereotypes against female authors: it is entirely driven by male referees, only exists for lesser-known authors, and seems larger in more masculine fields, especially in finance. 

These findings have direct policy implications for the design of systems to evaluate research and, more specifically, to select papers for conferences. In particular, they imply that a more gender-balanced pool of referees would lead to more gender-neutral acceptance decisions. 

References

Bayer, A and C E Rouse (2016), “Diversity in the Economics Profession: A New Attack on an Old Problem”, Journal of Economic Perspectives30(4): 221-42.

 Campos, R, F Leon and B McQuillin (2018), “Lost in the storm: the academic collaborations that went missing in hurricane ISSAC”, Economic Journal 128(610): 995–1018.

De Leon, F L and B McQuillin (2018), “The role of conferences on the pathway to academic impact: Evidence from a natural experiment”, Journal of Human Resources: 1116–8387R.

Lundberg, S and J Stearns (2019), “Women in Economics: Stalled Progress”, Journal of Economic Perspectives 33 (1): 3-22.