COGITO: Ghazala AZMAT on gender inequality in higher education
- Gender gap symbolized by woman who cannot open a door because there are no steps
The 10th number of Cogito, Sciences Po’s Research magazine, is soon to be out with a special dossier on gender equality. It features an article by Ghazala AZMAT on gender inequalities in higher education - particularly true in the field of economics (read interview with Sergeï GURIEV, director of our PhD programme).
Ghazala AZMAT is a Full Professor of Economics at the Department since 2017. Her research interests are in applied and empirical economics, with a particular focus on the economics of education and labour economics. In 2018, she was awarded an important ANR Tremplin-ERC grant for her project Gender, Aspirations, and the Labour Market (ASPIRE). One of its central objectives is “to open, and develop, a new line of research in the formation, and role, of aspirations in understanding gender differences in labour market outcomes.” – an objective that is reflected in her Cogito article. But also in Ghazala AZMAT’s praxis.
To wit, Ghazala AZMAT organised a “Women in Economics” event in late February, just before the Covid-19 pandemic took hold, aimed at supporting female PhD students in economics. With around 33% of women in economics and even less at the professor level (24%), there is evidence to suggest that women find it particularly hard to make careers in economics, compared to many other disciplines.
In the spirit of the European Economic Association (EEA) Standing Committee on Women in Economics, this event at Sciences Po centred around more senior female economists circulating information on, or relevant to, more junior female economists, and by providing a forum for discussion of issues relevant to women in economics.
In her Cogito article, Ghazala AZMAT underscores the mystery shrouding the gender gap in higher education: “In most OECD countries, women have surpassed men in college completion (…) The removal of barriers for women into education and the labour market being important drivers of (…) increased investments in human capital. However, the changing patterns in higher education attainment have raised a number of new questions, baffling many social scientists. Women’s under-representation at the top remains a mystery, especially given the numbers coming through.”
If gender differences in field choice is a first important step to understanding gender inequality in higher education, it is insufficient: “When looking at earning differences among men and women studying in the same field, we see with no exception, women are paid less (…) Moreover, these gaps grow over time.”
Ghazala AZMAT points to new promising lines of research that focus on gender differences in skills (verbal vs math skills, behavioural and socio-emotional skills), as well as the impact of a high pressure environment in competitive fields that may help unravel the mystery.