January 29, 2018

A low-budget field experiment to tackle the lack of women in the male-dominated field of economics has been surprisingly effective, says SMU economist Danila Serra, the study’s author.

Top female college students were inspired to pursue a major in economics when exposed very briefly to charismatic, successful women in the field, according to Serra. The results suggest that exposing young women to an inspiring female role model succeeds due to the mix of both information and pure inspiration, Serra said.

SMU economics graduates Julie Lutz ’08 and Courtney Thompson ’91 spoke to four Principles of Economics classes in spring 2016. Serra told the speakers nothing of the purpose of the research project, but encouraged each alumna to explain to the class why she had majored in economics and to be very engaging.

“The specific women who came and talked to the students were key to the success of the intervention,” she said. “It was a factor of how charismatic and enthusiastic they were about their careers and of how interesting their jobs looked to young women.”

Read more at SMU Research.