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Gimpelson and Treisman: Misperceiving Inequality

December 3, 2015

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Disentangling women's participation in research and its relation to economic development

October 16, 2017

Summary: It is generally argued that employment is gendered biased. Women not only are
underrepresented in the paid labour force, but they are also over-represented in certain types
of jobs. Moreover, their proportion tends to be lower in higher positions and they are affected
by gender wage gaps (Rubery and Grimshaw,2015).

The literature has also argued about the existence of gender disparities in research. These
inequalities are reflected in that they have less possibilities than men to find a job (Ecklund,
Lincoln and Tansey, 2012), to be promoted (Sabatier, Carrere, Mangematin, 2006) and to
work in certain fields; such as, the STEM (science, technology, engineering and
mathematics) fields (Blickenstaff, 2006).

Given these trends, the paper explores if there are connections between the gender dynamics
in employment with the ones that cross-cut research. Based on data from international
organizations, the investigation focuses on women  ́s participation in the general and in the
research labour market for a set of 53 countries, which differ in their economic development
in the year 2010. Taking into consideration that the literature has highlighted a special
relationship between economic development and female participation in the paid workforce,
the paper analyses if this same relationship can be found between women  ́s participation in
research and economic development.

Regarding the first aim, the paper arrives to the preliminary conclusion that gender dynamics
in employment are inversely correlated with the ones that can be found in research. In general
terms, while in the general paid workforce there is a tendency to gender parity, the same
cannot be argued about research. In most countries, there is a higher degree of gender
inequality in the latter. This could be understood in the light of the gender unequal
distribution in care time work and the fact that research is too time demanding in relation to
other jobs. Moreover, the fact that less women become researchers might have
intergenerational consequences as this might lead to less women in examination committees
and top research positions which, following the literature on this issue, might reduce females application chances of obtaining research positions.

Regarding the second purpose of the paper, one of the preliminary results to which it arrives
is that the degree of gender inequality in research seems to be related to the GDP per capita,
in what can graphically be described as an inverted U-shaped pattern. A possible explanation
for this figure, that needs to be explored in further investigations, could be that women  ́s
participation in research depends on the combined effect of the educational gender gap, the
degree in which goods and services substitute unpaid care work (please see Braunstein et al,
2013), sectoral employment demand and women  ́s horizontal segregation in certain types of

The paper ends with a typology of countries that classifies them according to the relationship
between gender inequality in research and economic development.

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