In honour of International Women’s day, we’ve spoken to a couple of female Durham Economics students about why they choose Economics, the women that have inspired them the most, and the barriers they expect to face in the future.
Laura Hosford, 2nd year Economics student:
Why did you choose to study Economics? Economics is always in the news, so I wanted to understand why it’s so prevalent in everything we, businesses or governments do. I also felt that if it’s so important in shaping everyone’s lives, studying it would allow me to help towards that.
Do you think your reasons differ to the majority of males? I’m not sure really- a lot of people go into Economics to do banking, and that seems to be more prevalent among males studying Economics, so I guess so.
Only 26% of Economics students in the UK are female- why do you think there are so few women applying to Economics? I think women generally see it as a very male-dominated subject, so are put off from applying. This is especially so when you look at how male-dominated the job sectors that follow from an Economics degree are- e.g. banking, businesses (particularly top positions), parliament etc.
Do you think your education experience so far has been different because you are women? I think as a woman you sometimes feel as if you have to prove yourself more in the discipline- the only difference that has made is for me to work harder though!
What women most inspires you and why? Women like Karen Brady- she’s an absolute inspiration as she conquered two male dominated sectors at the same time- business and football- by becoming the managing director of Birmingham City. She is an example to girls everywhere that you can still get to the top of your profession whether or not it is male-dominated!
What do you think will be the biggest challenger for you once you have graduated? Being able to break through the glass ceiling and show that whatever gender you are, you can still be successful, no matter what the level of position.
What do you think the most significant barrier for female leadership is? Changing the mindset of the white men who often appoint the female leaders- until the culture changes it is impossible for there to be gender parity amongst our leaders.
Emily Morrish, a 2nd year Economics and Management student:
Why did you choose to study Economics? I had an inspiring teacher and also high job and earnings prospects.
Do you think your reasons differ to the majority of males? Probably not, I think everyone’s motivated by career to an extent?
Only 26% of Economics students in the UK are female- why do you think there are so few women applying to Economics? I think Economics is seen as pretty maths-based which often puts girls off, and it’s quite a male dominated environment in some places which can be intimidating.
Do you think your education experience so far has been different because you are women? At university no, but at school yes- a big deal was made of the fact that I was female and good at Economics.
What women most inspires you and why? JK Rowling – she overcame and now speaks out about depression and mental health, she has an amazing imagination, and was able to create something that took over a whole generation. She was also super persistent in getting her first book published even when people kept turning her away.
What do you think will be the biggest challenger for you once you have graduated? I want to go into HR which is quite a female-dominated field so standing out in the applicant pool might be a challenge – everyone will be from a good uni and study Business and Economics etc.
What do you think the most significant barrier for female leadership is? Girls not having enough faith in themselves – often we take a backseat because we don’t see leadership as ever being an option for us
An Economics student, who wishes to remain anonymous:
Why did you choose to study Economics? I’m very interested in how people’s behaviour can be modelled and how we developed the economic systems we use now. Coming from a developing country where there is a lot of corruption and low growth, I also really wanted to understand what went wrong and how to try to fix it.
Do you think your reasons differ to the majority of males? I don’t think they differ that much, I’ve met a lot of males who have similar reasons to mine. However, although it might be a coincidence, I think I’ve met more males than females who chose Economics because they want to work in finance/investment banking after they graduate.
Only 26% of Economics students in the UK are female- why do you think there are so few women applying to Economics? I’m not very sure why the percentage is so low, my guess would be that it’s due to the stereotypes related to Economics as a degree. When I mention that I study Economics, most people assume I want to go into finance or business, which isn’t true. Therefore women might be deterred from applying due to the somewhat narrow career prospects.
Do you think your education experience so far has been different because you are women? I think I’ve had the same opportunities so far in terms of education.
What women most inspires you and why? Although she’s not internationally famous, the woman who probably inspires me the most is Maia Sandu, a Moldovan politician who after studying at Harvard and working for the World Bank, came back to Moldova and made some significant and needed changes. I think that what inspires me the most is that although people were against and were criticising what she was doing in the beginning, she was determined and confident enough to keep going and therefore managed to improve things significantly.
What do you think will be the biggest challenge for you once you have graduated? I think the biggest challenge for me will be deciding what exactly I want to do after I graduate, as I have a lot of ideas of things I’d like to get involved with, like technology, economic development and mental health (especially in developing countries).
What do you think the most significant barrier for female leadership is? I think my answer to this question is biased, due to the fact that I was born in a developing country, where there is not a lot of gender equality. Therefore, in my opinion, the most significant barrier is the things girls are told when they are young, like that they shouldn’t be too confident or that their priority needs to always be starting a family etc. I think this is a barrier to leadership, as it affects women’s confidence and attitudes.