Gender Differences in the Choice of Major: The Importance of Female Role Models
AbstractWomen have been traditionally underrepresented in numerous fields of study. While in the last two decades many disciplines, including STEM, have made significant progress in
attracting and retaining women, there has been little improvement in the field of economics, which remains heavily male-dominated. We report results from a field experiment aimed
at increasing the percentage of women majoring in economics through exposure to female role models.
We found that while the intervention had no impact one male students, it significantly increased the percentage of women planning to major in economics (survey-based). The intervention had an even stronger effect on the probability that a female student enrolled in an intermediate economics class the semester following the role model's visits. The effect of the intervention is especially large and persistent over time for female students that got an A in the principle class. For these top students, the intervention seems to have completely eliminated the gender gap in enrollment in a higher level economics class. Overall, our study provides strong evidence of the importance of female role models on young women's decision to self-select into a male-dominated field of study.