Discussion Questions on Julie Nelson, "Feminism and Economics"

First a quiz: Here's a list of UW departments in alphabetical order: economics, geology & geophysics, math, philosophy, physics, political science, and population health sciences. Here is a list of approximate male: female faculty ratios from largest to smallest. 12:1, 7:1, 6:1, 4:1, 2.5: 1, and 1.5-1. Match the ratios to the departments. (Some of the ratios are true of more than one department.) Hint: nation-wide the percentage of women in humanities faculty in 2003 was 52% and 31% in the natural sciences.

1. Nelson contrasts feministic economics with female and feminine economics. How do these three differ?

2. Nelson argues that we see various characteristics of investigation as masculine or feminine and associate more positive values with those traits that we take to be masculine. To see if she is right, sort the following traits as masculine or feminine and as more positive or less positive. Do the lists match? logical, precise, subjective, methodical, intuitive, understanding, practical, speculative, brilliant, creative, quantitative, abstract, objective, inquisitive, insensitive, sympathetic, impetuous, critical, impartial, skeptical, proven, generous, concrete, impersonal, and dumb. What, if anything, do you learn from the exercise?

3. How does the gendered character of economics (its alignment with the valuation of traits seen as masculine) separately affect (1) models in economics, economic methods, economic topics, and the teaching of economics. In each case consider a specific example (either Nelson's or one that occurs to you) of how a less gendered approach would differ.