Do female department chairs matter?

Appointing female managers is a common proposal to improve women’s representation and outcomes in the workplace, but it is unclear how well such policies accomplish these goals. Using newly-collected panel data on academic departments, I exploit variation in the timing of transitions between department chairs of different genders with a difference-in-differences research design. For faculty, I find female department chairs reduce gender gaps in publications and tenure for assistant professors and shrink the gender pay gap. Replacing a male chair with a female chair increases the number of female students among incoming graduate cohorts by ten percent with no evidence of a change in ability correlates for the average student.

That is from a new paper by Andrew Langan, who is a job market candidate from Princeton this year.  He has another paper with Leah Boustan, here is an excerpt from the abstract:

We find that schools with better outcomes for women also hire more women faculty, facilitate advisor-student contact, provide collegial research seminars, and are notable for senior faculty with awareness of gender issues.

In yet another piece he estimates the value of unpaid cooking time in Mexico, always higher than you think I would say.


Seems then that female discrimination is as rampant in academia as it is in the online gaming and even chess worlds?

"Seems then that female discrimination is as rampant in academia as it is in the online gaming"

It's almost certainly far worse in academia. Online gamers pick their own venues and can easily shift to different venues. Attempts to actively discriminate on any basis in online gaming is trivially countered by choosing a different server, game, group, blocking users, etc.

Not trivial if you're a pro gamer; there was a article TC posted on this.

"Not trivial if you're a pro gamer;"

That's a fair point.

All racial and gender quota's are wrong and ultimately counter productive. People should be promoted or appointed because of their ability to do the job without regard to gender and race.

This is one of the many reasons why Earth 2 is such a great place. Unfortunately we live on the Earth where entrenched discrimination already stacked the deck. But good news! We can choose to unstack the deck, and if you promote women, the department mix shifts in favor of gender equality without even impacting student quality!

Sure, but what happens at other institutions? Maybe the mix shifts away from gender equality because the qualified female students are picking schools where they perceive there will be favorable treatment.

The question of whether you are "unstacking the deck" by stacking the deck in favor of the preferred genitals is a serious one.

That particularly mechanism strikes me as implausible (I think it assumes too small a pool and no elasticity in that pool), but I would agree that these policies are difficult to design, difficult to implement, and that any particular policy may or may not work, and might have some kind of unanticipated negative effect. The world is a complicated and difficult place.

But to say, as Anon did, that we can simply fix the problem by going forward with truly neutral policies flies in the face of that same reality for the reason that I described--the "stacked deck." If you play a round of spades using a stacked deck, it doesn't matter if you scrupulously follow the rules. The outcome is predetermined by the stacking of the deck. And if you give a stacked deck to a set of players who did not themselves know about or participate in the stacking, it doesn't change the fact that the game is rigged. It doesn't matter that the players are honest, or that they didn't mean to play with a stacked deck, or that they believe in fairness, or that their intentions are pure. They still play a rigged game with a predetermined outcome.

So do I believe that you can use policy to increase fairness in the system? Yes. Do I believe that fairness will materialize in the absence of such efforts? I see little evidence in favor of that argument. Do I think such efforts are extremely difficult and possibly counterproductive and that you can screw them up? Of course I do. But that is why studies like this one are so useful: they help you to think about what works and what doesn't, and why. Then you should respond accordingly, based on your preferred outcomes.

I would like to see us try to increase equality of opportunity. Doing so is likely to hurt some folks who were on the winning side of an unequal distribution--who benefited from playing with an advantage in the old system. I consider that acceptable, because I think that equality of opportunity is a moral and social good. I believe this even though it has hurt me, personally, in some definable ways in my own life.

Right now and perhaps for the last 50 years or so in order to "unstack the deck" the government, institutions and businesses have discriminated against white males. Do you agree than that this is defacto "entrenched discrimination" which will require future unstacking of the deck in favor of white males? Or is your intent only a one way street and in fact simply hidden discrimination on your part?

Given the vagueness of your claims, they can't be evaluated with any rigor. Which government, institution, and business? I'm from Texas. That government is not engaged in wholesale discrimination against white men, that I can tell. I went to school at a Christian university. It is not engaged in discrimination against white men, as far as I can tell, based at least on their percentage in the student body versus the racial make-up of the state of Texas more generally. In my department at a Fortune 500 payroll company, more than half the employees were white men, including me, who they hired despite my having no experience with payroll or accounting. So I feel like white men were doing okay there, too. So basically I just don't see your point about entrenched discrimination against white guys. It appears to me that white guys are doing just fine. I mean, you could imagine some hypothetical future where white guys are some kind of oppressed group, like you could imagine that for any particular group. But on this version of Earth, they appear to be getting on okay.

Stanford? Or Princeton?

"Replacing a male chair with a female chair increases the number of female students among incoming graduate cohorts by ten percent "

So it bumps it up to 70%ish female then?

The data is in the paper. The author studies four departments: Economics, Accounting, Sociology, Political Sciences. For all departments the faculty is less than 50% female (including sociology). Graduate students representation (measured by PhD awarded) is less than 50% female for all but sociology.

Men are a majority of those awarded baccalaureate degrees in economics and political science. Decree awards in accounting are a 50-50 split (in a matrix wherein 55% of all baccalaureates are awarded to females). Sociology is the only department where women usually prevail.

I assume he has an excuse as to why the English department did not attract his attention.

I'd be fine even if he only analyzes Economics departments. Claudia Goldin had a study about Economics undergraduate gender distribution a couple of years ago and found a declining share of women by year into the program. Of course this does not mean that something is amiss, but it might. That's why the result of no change in average ability resulting from an increase in share of women is, at least to me, interesting.

I read the paper as a valuable contribution to the questions: "Does female leadership increase female recruitment?" Answer: Yes. "Does the resulting increase in female recruitment reduce competency of the work force?" Answer: No.

That's an important contribution, that guy should place very well. That should be a top 5 publication.

tsch said, "Does the resulting increase in female recruitment reduce competency of the work force?" Answer: No.

Then Claudia Goldin would be comfortable with institutions different economic sub-departments filled wholly by different genders, economic theory could be taught by women while Macroeconomics and International Economics taught by men and Microeconomics taught by Trans people.

I don't understand your point. I also have no idea what Claudia Goldin might or might not be comfortable with. I referenced her study in response to the comment mentioning undergraduate gender ratios.

Personally, I am concerned that a skewed gender ratio in Economics might be the result of bias/discrimination against women. I'd like to see smart students become economists and like to see equality of opportunity exist without inefficient barriers.

"I'd like to see equality of opportunity exist without inefficient barriers."

I think that is everyone's concern

I noticed that women often work in different areas in econ than men do. Also, econ is the type of job that women in generally dislike because women like more social and less technical jobs, such as nursing. Economics is closer to engineering which is the type of job women usually hate. The fact is that a lot of disparity in gender representation in jobs is due to self selection and not barriers to entry (I haven't perceived want barriers to entry for women in economics, instead I perceived full equality of opportunity).

i would like more studies demonstrating that women need improved representations and outcomes in the first place.

The man who bets against change will lose. Was it demonstrated to you that we need a Marginal Revolution blog or that it needed a comment section? No. And yet here you are.

The paper is straight up economics. 'If x is your goal, is strategy y effective?' Your political opposition to the goal is misplaced in a response to this paper.

I think wondering whether equality of opportunity is present in any institutional setting is appropriate. Very disparate outcomes (less than 20% female Economics graduate students) might, MIGHT, suggest voluntary sorting, but MIGHT also suggest a violation of equality of opportunity. If it's the latter a society does not use resources efficiently.

Agreed! Why doesn't the invisible hand work to close the gender pay gap or the gender representation gap? If I owned a business and I could get women employees for 77 cents on the dollar, I would have an all-female workforce. What am I missing?

Your missing the political expediency of the pay gap message, as well as the numerous down-sides to actually hiring an all-female workforce. This is why this doesn't happen, and god help you if it does.

It seems you know the empirical literature on the gender pay gap, so no need to get into this. This type of thoughtful analysis (as also performed by the author on female management) is exactly what we need to not fall for specious answers of discrimination because of unequal outcomes.

But, clearly unequal outcomes can also signal deep problems. The fact that very few African Americans voted in elections in Alabama in 1948 actually was the result of discrimination and a violation of equality of opportunity. I believe that conclusion is uncontroversial. I believe it is also clear that 'the invisible hand' alone was not sufficient in addressing this issue of discrimination intruding into the marketplace.

This then goes back to your original question. We need more studies carefully showing what drives differential outcomes, exactly what this paper strives to do.

I believe it is also clear that 'the invisible hand' alone was not sufficient in addressing this issue of discrimination intruding into the marketplace.

What invisible hand? Southern states had commercial law which mandated segregation and restrictive covenants on property deeds were rampant after 1910. Public transit, schools, higher education were all subject to formal mandatory segregation. You didn't have that up north except in two or three states (Indiana was one), but you did have restrictive covenants on real estate.

"We find that schools with better outcomes for women... are notable for senior faculty with awareness of gender issues."
OK, I know I can stop reading any further. Too bad this quote came toward the end of the post.

So in college academic departments, a female head has significant impact on the publications and pay of the female employees. I wonder what the mechanisms are for that? Perhaps women in the department feel more empowered, or perhaps a female head gives greater weight to female contributions.

Might similar mechanisms have an impact on male students in elementary school? In elementary schools, female teachers dominate. Would having more male teachers have a positive impact on the outputs of the boy students?

In my experience Department Chairs are not simply "picked" or "replaced" by some authority on high at their complete discretion. Usually a Chair has to be acceptable to the group to some degree. Collegiality and all that. In well performing departments anyway.

Langan is at Princeton, not Stanford.

You might better ask yourself what George Mason Univ should do about Christopher Farrell who pushed the envelope so far that even Fox Business News has disavowed the statement he made about George Soros. GMU Prof and Conspiracy Theory

And what do you think it should do?

You are not familiar with GMU, are you? The director of investigations for Judicial Watch, a government watchdog organization, has no need to fear any impact on his professional career, apart from the possibility of being denied any chance to teach students in a Commonwealth of Virginia taxpayer funded GMU classroom, instead of somewhere like the Institute for Humane Studies at GMU.

There are any number of advantages to be being at a university without actually having any real connection to it, and this is just a potential illustration of one. Something that anybody who works in PR at GMU is intimately familiar with.

However, adjunct professor? Who cares, they simply won't renew his likely semester long contract (not definitive, but the Faculty Handbook PDF indicates short term, and the problem goes away. And don't forget the synergy, from a certain perspective - stick by him, and so demonstrate 'integrity' for honest social commentary, or disavow him, and show how even more money needs to be donated to ensure that the former ASSoL remains a bastion for those engaging in honest social commentary, along with several public policy institutes located at GMU, but beyond any reach of the university's administration.

Well, at least when it comes to having to decide what 'honest social commentary' means these days.

So now we know that if we have man-hating women running departments, men will be discriminated against even more? Wow, there is a revelation. And what kind of male a-holes takes on a topic like this for a paper?

The ones that are willing to milk down political correctness for professional advancement. It would be really interesting if the paper had reached politically incorrect conclusions: what if putting female heads increased the share of women while lowering quality? Also, how can one measure quality in economics where the quality of research is fundamentally subjective?

Chair of department talking here. I would happily be replaced by a female
chair (or a male chair, or a robot chair, or any not-me chair for that matter).

Maybe one can use some GMU data to see the process in reverse - Prof. Vaughn was the econ dept chair in the 1980s. So, an introduction to the past, when being female and in charge of an academic department was not seen as unusual - 'Among her many impressive accomplishments, she was the chair of the economics department at George Mason University from 1982–1989. In this capacity she brought James M. Buchanan’s Center for the Study of Public Choice to George Mason University in 1983 after its difficulties at Virginia Tech. She had previously initiated a deal to locate the Center for the Study of Market Processes, later to be renamed the Mercatus Center, to GMU in 1980. (Some of the story here and some here.)

Basically, GMU’s economics department at the time was nothing special. Its overall rankings have been slowly but steadily getting better, but in its areas of specialty it is near or at the top. I did not field in Experimental Economics and don’t know much history there, but I did field in Austrian Economics and Public Choice, the specialties represented by those very organizations, and the opportunity to study both in the same program from their leading scholars is due to Karen Vaughn. In short, it was Vaughn who made Mason Mason. We often think of the battle of ideas as being only about the ideas, but it’s things like this that work behind the scenes as well.' a href="">

Strange how little credit she gets for being the person who organized so many moon shot launching pads at Mason.

What would be the Straussian reading of a male candidate on the job market touting results showing the need for more female department chairs?

Chances Langan gets accused of inappropriate behavior in his career?
male feminist + beta face says very high.

He's only about 35. He's aging quite badly.

However elegantly executed, I do have to wonder about someone who defines the problem or anomaly to be investigated as an insufficiency of women in academe when 55% of the baccalaureate degrees are awarded to females. It calls to mind Erin O'Connor's observation about the Penn English department when she was employed there. She said 90% of their graduate students were female, and none of the faculty in the department seemed to think that the least bit odd. Does this fellow Langan? *

* Looking at academic or half-academic subjects, the female share of doctoral degrees awarded is as follows: psychology (75%), biology (53%), political science (42%), English (60%), communications (55%), sociology (62%), history (43%), economics (32%), computer and information science (20%), music (40%).

It would be interesting to see the mirror image study

Even when women reach 100% of faculty and students, they will still claim minority/oppressed status. And it will become a hell hole. Ask a nurse.

Even more promisingly, if you hire a lot of Jewish faculty and admissions officers, you can mostly do away with non-Jewish whites.

Mr. Unz was quite butt-hurt that a sociologist, a biostatistician, and a private citizen living in Chicago took his thesis apart. He's been waving his hands about it every chance he gets and insists Andrew Gelman is a bloody clot.

Pity if he botched the numbers, as his thesis is plainly correct. Note this graph relies not at all on Unz.

What I love in antisemites like thmfr is their absolute adoration and credence for everything that Jews can say. Here the statistics in the graph about Jews at Harvard comes from a Hillel site, which does not quote any source nor explains how it got these numbers, "But a Jewish site told it, that's the ultimate source of any truth." How touching.

I will note that the Hillel stat, if anything, seems to have been artificially revised downward, based on various archived copies. But if your criticism is that I trust Jews too much, I will not contest the point.

He has another paper with Leah Boustan,

He lists Boustan as a reference.

This is just another study by academics of academics. Just like with acadmic politics, virtually nothing is at stake. I never believe any psych, sociology or economic study of academics by academics. It is the purest form of mental self abuse known.

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