Breaking the glass ceiling—majority of women in GC economics go on to graduate school

Breaking the glass ceiling—majority of women in GC economics go on to graduate school

F or years, women have worked to break the invisible barrier that keeps underrepresented groups from climbing the corporate ladder. But even with that hard work, women remain under the “glass ceiling” and are still unrepresented in certain careers.

In the field of economics, women represented only 7 percent of new Ph.D.’s in 1972, according to a 2018 report from the American Economic Association’s Committee on the Status of Women in the Economics Profession (CSWEP).

In nearly 50 years, the representation of women receiving an economics Ph.D. has grown, but only to 32.9 percent nationally in 2017. That statistic has remained stagnant since the early 2000s, hovering between 30-35 percent.

Georgia College’s economics department bucks that national trend. Of the spring 2020 graduates majoring in economics, 50 percent of those were women and 25 percent of those women went on to pursue graduate school.

Hanna Kagele graduated in 2018 with double majors in economics and math. More than half of her fellow economics majors were women and 44 percent of them went to graduate school. 

Hanna Kagele
Hanna Kagele

“Georgia College was not an environment where women in the field are treated differently,” said Kagele. “I didn't even realize that was a thing in economics until I left Georgia College.”

“The field itself is definitely very male-dominated,” she said. “but that wasn't the case at all at Georgia College. I always felt very respected.”

Kagele is the first student from Georgia College’s economics program accepted to Emory University’s economics Ph.D. program. She received a full scholarship.

It wasn’t until her junior year at Georgia College when she started seriously considering a Ph.D. as an option. She knew she wanted to double major, and economics paired well with math. Then after becoming a Supplemental Instructor for math, she realized she enjoyed and had a knack for teaching others—sparking in her the thought of becoming a professor.

“One day, I stayed after in Dr. Chris Clark's econometrics class, and I just was like, ‘do you really think this is something I could accomplish?’ I said ‘you can be completely honest with me; would I even make it through grad school?’”

“Dr. Clark replied with ‘oh yeah, 100 percent. If that's what you want to do you would definitely make it,’” she said.

The rest is history Kagele said. She credits the research project she completed her senior year to helping her stand out to Emory. 

“I was the only person in my cohort that was coming straight from undergrad so everyone else had a master's or they had been doing research type jobs before they came to the Ph.D. program,” said Kagele. “I was a little bit nervous because I kind of felt like the underdog. But Georgia College prepared me so well. I definitely didn't have a disadvantage”

The research project for students begins during fall semester senior year. In the econometrics course, they learn how to formulate research questions, collect, clean and analyze data, and use appropriate econometrics techniques to answer those research questions. 

“They complete memo projects that eventually become the basis of their final research papers,” said Dr. Brooke Conaway, assistant professor of economics. “Their papers are completed, polished and presented in the spring during our senior seminar course.”

“These projects give our students an edge as they apply to grad school since this is the kind of research they would be doing,” said Conaway. “But it also benefits them as they apply for jobs, since the paper is a signal of many qualities employers are looking for in new hires.” 

Georgia College’s economics curriculum focuses on the development of analytical and critical thinking, deductive reasoning, quantitative and communication skills. These skills are sought by employers in all fields. Majoring in economics can open doors for students to graduate school, law schools or the workforce. 

“The faculty in the Economics and Finance Department are wholly dedicated to the success of our students, and many co-author papers with undergraduates,” Conaway said. “We have award-winning faculty using high-impact practices to teach students skills highly desired by employers and graduate programs.”

Senior Kendyl Lewis chose the major based on her interests in research and policy. 

Kendyl Lewis
Kendyl Lewis

“Studying both economics and psychology has had a major impact on my career plans,” said Lewis. “I am so thankful that I have been able to take both psychology and economics classes because I have been able to apply what I am learning in each field to the other.”

Lewis is deciding whether she wants to pursue an economics Ph.D. or a dual-degree program where she could earn her Ph.D. in economics and law degree at the same time. 

“I ultimately want a career where I can do research that is focused on improving public policy,” said Lewis.

As they set out to make their marks on the world, both women credit professors with helping them along their journey.

“Econ professors have gone out of their way to provide me with opportunities to help me prepare for graduate school and my future career,” said Lewis “They push me and provide me with extra opportunities to put my skills into practice, so I feel like I would not be able to have the same quality of economics education anywhere else.”

They know their perspectives are needed and valued in the field. 

“Economics is a really unique field in that different perspectives give you such an advantage,” said Kagele. “I think the perspective that women, in particular, bring is important.”