For the first edition of WiE Spotlight we spoke to Sascha Wilhelm, co-developer of a real time monitoring tool that uses web scraping to provide an up-to-date picture of gender representation in European academic institutions.
Through the development of the Women in European Economics monitoring tool, Professor Guido Friebel and Sascha Wilhelm present statistics on the proportion of women in European academic institutions. This allows for the investigation of the status of women in the field by country, hierarchy and institution. Being the first comprehensive data collection exercise of its kind, the research provides unparalleled insights into variation in the representation of women within the top 300 research institutions by research output.S
The following is an abridged version of WiE’s interview with Sascha Wilhelm.
Sascha works as an industrial economist that specializes in handling big data sources and had no prior experience on the topic of gender inclusion. Thus, Sascha’s decision to research women’s low representation in economics came as a new chapter in his career.
The more time Sascha spent working on the topic, the more his interest grew, as many of the findings appeared to challenge the idea that Europe has solved its gender problem. For instance, there are certain countries and institutions doing well in terms of gender equality but mostly, there remains an unequal share of women on all hierarchical levels. Additionally, the research points to that the better ranked institutions employ the lowest number of females, especially at a senior level. This finding is a novel contribution of the Women in European Economics monitoring tool as, to the best of our knowledge, no other researcher has raised this issue.
We find the value of the research that Sascha does to be invaluable. It provides objective evidence in a debate normally fraught with passion and gut-feelings instead of facts. Thus, the Women in European Economics monitoring tool can further promote awareness and transparency about the status of women in academia. Sascha hopes that the information discovered provides a new dimension to evaluate the performance of institutions and become a critical factor in the decision-making process about whether or not to accept a position.
Another interesting dynamic revealed was the existence of regional differences, making one wonder whether structural or cultural factors are playing a key role in gender imbalance within academia. Sascha explains how the narrowing down to exact factors is a challenge currently but that a leaky pipeline exists in the career of females in economics in Europe, just like in the United States. Even Scandinavian countries, showing the most equality, need to work to provide an environment where female Ph.D. students are just as likely to achieve tenure as males.
Moving forward, Sasha recommends a few steps that research institutions can take in order to address their own gender imbalances. First, assess and compare how females are represented in their institution in comparison to equally ranked universities. Then, ensure that males and females are invited equally to seminars and conferences to maintain representation from all sides. Also, advisors must take responsibility to ensure that their female doctorates receive equal support for not just their academic careers, but their jobs thereon after as well.
Our final question for Sascha asked if this research generated any crucial questions for him and are there any key research/policy directions imperative to carrying this work forward. He answered, “I would like to determine the exact proportion of different reasons for inequality across institutions in economics. Why do other hard sciences do better than economics in keeping females in the profession? Answering these questions would help to determine reasonable policies to overcome inefficiencies in the current biased job allocation to males.”
Visit the Women in European Economics website to find out how your university or country compare!