New Research Shows Gender Gap in Finance Faculty at Top Business Schools

Selina Johansson

AMHERST, Mass. – New research on the gender gap in faculty in finance programs, shows a significant gap, with only 16% of the finance faculty at top business schools being women.

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UMass Amherst professor Mila Sherman

The research, conducted by Mila Sherman, professor of finance in the Isenberg School of Management at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and Heather Tookes, professor of finance at the Yale School of Management, was published recently in the Journal of Finance. It is the first paper the journal has ever published on gender imbalance in academia.

Sherman and Tookes did a review of finance faculty from the top 100 business schools in the U.S. from 2009 to 2017 and it revealed that just 16% of the faculty members were women. After controlling their data for productivity, they found that women tend to work for lower-ranked institutions and were less likely to be tenured than men. The analysis showed that less than 15% of the population of tenured finance faculty are female in every year of the sample.

While the gender gap has shrunk in recent years, Sherman notes that the progress made is in jeopardy. There is now evidence, she says, that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a bigger negative impact on female faculty and their research productivity.

Sherman and Tookes also obtained salary data from 37 of the 60 public institutions in their sample. In a comparison of wages, there is a gender gap of 3.7%. The data showed a more significant gap in the earlier years of the sample, but by 2015, it had disappeared. However, Sherman notes, the largest pay gaps occurred in 2011 and 2012, just as many colleges and universities began to recover from the financial crisis a few years earlier. The authors suggest that post-financial crisis wage adjustments were faster for men than women. Overall, they note, the gender pay gap in academic finance is much smaller than in the overall U.S. economy.

The research showed that among finance faculty, women publish less than men, with a publication gap of 17.3%. Women also tend to have more female co-authors, suggesting that a smaller publication network exists for female faculty. Even though women publish less, they are more likely to have successful collaborations with other women, Sherman noted, adding that if the first author on a finance paper is a woman, the paper is more likely to have another female co-author.

The research showed that women have 11.8% fewer co-authors than their male counterparts. Sherman said that women have fewer co-authors from within their own Ph.D. cohorts, which may indicate a social networking constraint and could be relevant if co-author seniority is considered in promotion cases.

Also, the research reviewed the top publications in the field and showed not only do women tend to publish less, but there also is no clear difference in the quality of papers written by women.

“In a world where publishing means a great deal to your future job prospects, this spells trouble for female faculty,” Sherman said. “Because they do not appear as often as co-authors and are often publishing their work solo, it reduces their opportunities to publish.”

While the main findings suggest a poor outlook for women entering the profession, Sherman said that a close look at the year-by-year regression reveals a more optimistic picture. When Sherman and Tookes examined relationships between gender and various measures of success within the population of finance programs each year, the gender gap, or imbalance that cannot be explained by differences in observable productivity or seniority, shrinks or even disappears during the last years of the sample.

“By the last years of the sample, we are finding that research productivity, and not gender, explains most of the variation in where a faculty member is employed, whether the faculty member has tenure, or exits the profession,” they wrote. “These changes are occurring at the same time that we observe another slow-moving trend in the data: more women are entering the profession and obtaining tenure.”

The conditions for women taking a first tenure track job in finance appear to be improving, the authors say, however, there are two exceptions. First, unlike in economics, they did not observe shrinking differences between men and women in finance in publication rates. Second, even after controlling for publications, the study found more persistent gender gaps at the very top of the academic ladder among full professors.

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