For International Women's Day we spoke with Associate Professor Inès Moreno de Barreda to explore what led to her career in Economics, and what she thought could be improved upon to welcome more women into the field of Economics.
What led you to a career in Economics?
I’ve always loved problem solving and maths. However, as I advanced in my (5 years) undergrad in maths I missed being able to discuss with my family and friends whatever I was learning. After working in a risk consultancy firm for a couple of years I really wanted to come back to academia. I spent one year at the UAB a as a research assistant to the micro theory group and I just loved it. Jordi Massó introduced me to the Kidney matching problem, to strategy-proof social choice functions and stable coalition problems. It really opened my eyes and I decided to do a PhD in economics.
Why aren’t there many women in the field of Economics?
There might be a misperception of what economics is. Students have little exposure to what we do in economics by the time they have to choose what to pursue at university. Economics might be seen as synonym to finance, money, markets, taxes and unemployment. These topics are not the most inviting and appealing to female students. Topics such as development, inequality, behavioural economics, experiments and even mechanisms design (which is what attracted me to economics) are maybe less salient to 16-18 years old students.
What motivates you in your work?
The best moment by far is when I am deep into a project and something that wasn’t clear suddenly becomes transparent. This might be because I manage to complete an argument in a proof, or because I find a counter example of something that I thought was satisfied but I wasn’t managing to prove. The feeling of a clear understanding of something that wasn’t known is really amazing. Unfortunately it doesn’t happen very often.
What do we need to change for women to take up space in the field of Economics?
A higher proportion of females than males drop at every single stage of the economics careers… so there is plenty to do. We should attract more female undergraduates, maybe by making economic topics that attract more women more salient in the wider community. Then, we should analyse why a lower proportion of female students decide to undertake graduate studies. Is it cultural? How could we make it more exciting and attractive to women? Then there is the issue of the economics research environment being a bit intimidating to women. We should have zero tolerance for any behaviour that would put anyone in an uncomfortable position. How can we make economics more welcoming? Finally, there is the issue of progression in a research career and the difficulty to combine it with the starting of a family. How could we help to alleviate this trade-off? The thing is, only around 20% of economic academics are female… so we are losing a lot of potential. This is a shame.
What has the last year taught you?
Last year with the pandemic, school closures, online teaching, concerns about the wellbeing of students and family, has been particularly challenging. It has been a year of priorities. There are many things that I haven’t been able to do. But that’s fine. And maybe that is what this year has taught me. To put things into perspective.