What can economists tell us about the trouble women have advancing in the workplace? Do we really know whether they get the same training or opportunities in the office?
We certainly believe that’s the case. And we do have some evidence. I’ve seen some studies where, even when controlling for measured factors, women will get less training than men. Mentorship has been a long-term issue, especially in male-dominated areas, or areas where the senior people are men. People still tend to identify with younger colleagues of the same sex. So they may be more supportive, encouraging and helpful to young men than they are to young women. And even how it affects women themselves. There have been some studies that suggest, for example — the evidence is a bit mixed — but one of the more interesting ones I saw, where women were randomly assigned to classes, just having a female professor in some of these scientific and technical areas increased the probability that women would go into these areas.
The Atlantic has a good discussion with Francine Blau, a labor economist at Cornell, about why we have not yet reached parity for men and women in the workplace. This particular section here reminds me of what Joyce King Thomas said last month about mentorship (“Starting today, let’s all pick three women to mentor. I’m not just talking to those at the top, but to those in the middle and those scrambling up by their fingernails.”)