Economics research increasingly of interest also to women


The Department of Economics has seen around a dozen women defending their doctoral theses over the last two years.

'Now that the number of female doctors of economics is increasing, the field will certainly see a greater number of female professors in the future’, Professors Pertti Haaparanta and Juuso Välimäki are happy to report.

In recent times, the School of Business’s Department of Economics has seen a significantly large number of women completing their doctoral studies. Graduating at the beginning of June, Hanna Virtanen was the ninth consecutive female doctoral graduate, and in August she will be followed by Kaisa Alavuotunki. Squeezing in before Kaisa with a July graduation, however, was Lassi Alhvik, so an unbroken streak of ten female graduates wasn’t quite achieved. But the numbers are nevertheless very happy news, commented Professor Pertti Haaparanta from the Department of Economics.

One of the women who graduated during the spring was Elina Berghäll, who works as a senior researcher in the Government Institute for Economic Research. The following comments reflect, however, her own personal opinions.
‘In the beginning I became interested in economics because it offered answers to why some countries in Africa are poor while Finland is relatively rich. Economics reveals why most goods go where they go, rather than where they were voted to go. The wide-ranging effects of economics can be researched with increasingly effective methods. Different data sources and their availability are perhaps also gradually improving’, Ms Berghäll said while explaining the attraction of economics.

Personal relationships, not gender, are what matters in the academic world

Regarding the increase in the number of women graduating as doctors of economics, Ms Berghäll considers that the current economic situation, which has impacted even those with degree-level education, favours the continuation of studies. In the public sector a qualification can also sometimes help women to compete for jobs with men, as a doctoral degree does, after all, provide evidence of one’s level of competency, Ms Berghäll noted while stressing that she has not herself studied the matter.

According to Professor Haaparanta and Professor Juuso Välimäki, women have in recent years found employment in the economic field just as well as men, with competence level being the most important recruitment criterion.
‘If there is a problem, then it is possibly related to how many women aim for a solely academic career. The reason for this is difficult to locate, but it is clear at least that the men who have held and currently hold academic posts have not placed any obstructions in their way. Now that the number of female doctors of economics is increasing, the field will certainly see a greater number of female professors in the future’, the two professors were happy to report.

However, researcher Hanna Virtanen, who works for the Research Institute of the Finnish Economy (ETLA), pointed out the fact that many women are carrying out their doctoral studies at an age when it is common to start a family.
‘In order to progress at the university, one should spend a few years carrying out research overseas. This option does not necessarily seem very good to women considering starting a family’, she noted.

Regarding the significance of gender for those operating in the academic world, Elina Berghäll commented that personal relations are of great importance also in the academic world, for example in carrying out research cooperation. It is easier to produce papers for respected scientific publications in cooperation with others rather than alone. Good cooperative groups and relationships are also of benefit both for academic appointments and the acquisition of funding. Individual differences have a greater impact than gender. Women can, for example, be discriminatory in just the same way that men can.