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Female Editors in Economic Sciences



Funk P. F.



Journal editors are important gate keepers in science. They are the ultimate decision makers regarding the type of research that gets published. While the editors/co-editors are responsible for making the final decisions, all members of the editorial board are heavily involved in the decision-making process. Historically, editorial boards in Economics have been predominantly male. Only recently, journals have made some effort to become more diverse, and sometimes even indicate the gender composition of the editorial on the journal webpage.

In this project, we measure and document the representation of women in editorial boards over time and across fields. We scrutinize all major Economics journals from the 30s up to today. We then distinguish whether the historical under-representation of women in editorial boards was due to a lack of women in the pipeline of journal editors, or whether they were in the pipeline, but ultimately not selected. To construct the pipeline of potential editors, we note that research output is key to become a journal editor. Hence, we measure the pipeline of potential editors at a given point of time as the pool of researchers with a similar research productivity (or a similar CV) than the actual editors. We use as a basis for this analysis a large database that combines yearly information on engagements in editorial boards with yearly measures of research productivity (e.g. journal publications and citations) for all active researchers (starting in the 30s). The share of females in the editorial boards will then be compared to the share of females in the pool of potential editors.

Next to analyzing the representation of females in editorial boards, we also measure the impact of female editors, and identify potential obstacles to female editorship through a large-scale survey. A first interesting exercise to assess the potential impact of female editors is to see how different they are from male editors in terms of research topics. Does adding one more female editor bring more diversity in terms of research topics compared to add one additional male editor (on average)? And second: does the share of papers published in different fields vary with the share of female editors in a journal?

We round up our analysis of female editors with a large-scale survey, which we plan to send to researchers in two different samples: 1) the sample of actual (current and past) editors of all major journals in economics, and 2) the pool of potential editors, identified by academics with a research productivity similar to actual editors. Starting with the latter sample (pool of potential editors), we first would like to understand, whether there are gender differences in the willingness to accept editorial positions. Should we find that women were less likely to accept editorial positions than men (e.g. because of being less confident), this could explain part of the under-representation of women we observed in the past. Second, we ask current and past editors about their experiences in the editorial process. It is of particular interest to see whether female editors are treated differently than male editors, upon rejecting a certain paper (are authors more likely to complain to female editors than male editors)? And how do female editors react to the challenges of editorial positions (are women more likely to terminate early than men)? All these survey questions enable us to understand, why women and men do (or do not) accept editorial positions, and what hurdles they face, upon acceptance

Additional information

Start date
End date
48 Months
Funding sources
Swiss National Science Foundation / Project Funding / Humanities and social sciences (Division I)