The Female Economy

Kevin Lewis

September 04, 2009

"Women now drive the world economy. Globally, they control about $20 trillion in annual consumer spending, and that figure could climb as high as $28 trillion in the next five years. Their $13 trillion in total yearly earnings could reach $18 trillion in the same period. In aggregate, women represent a growth market bigger than China and India combined — more than twice as big, in fact...As we write, the number of working women in the United States is about to surpass the number of working men. Three-quarters of the people who have lost jobs in the current recession are men."

"The Female Economy," by Michael J. Silverstein and Kate Sayre, Harvard Business Review, September 2009.


The Role of Gender Stereotypes in U.S. Senate Campaigns

Kim Fridkin & Patrick Kenney
Politics & Gender, September 2009, Pages 301-324

In this article, we rely on data from the 2006 Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES) to examine the impact of gender for U.S. senators running for reelection. We propose a theoretical explanation for why an incumbent's gender may influence how citizens evaluate senators, and we present empirical evidence showing that people develop distinct impressions of men and women senators during campaigns. In the 2006 election cycle, women senators were viewed more positively than their male counterparts. Some of the advantages women senators enjoyed were consistent with established gender stereotypes. In particular, women senators were viewed as more honest and more caring than male senators. Moreover, women senators were viewed as more competent at dealing with health-care issues. However, we did not find evidence for gender stereotypes that traditionally produce more positive views of male senators. For example, we did not find that male senators were viewed as stronger leaders or more experienced than women senators. People did not view male senators as better able to deal with economic issues.


Women in the boardroom and their impact on governance and performance

Renée Adams & Daniel Ferreira
Journal of Financial Economics, forthcoming

We show that female directors have a significant impact on board inputs and firm outcomes. In a sample of US firms, we find that female directors have better attendance records than male directors, male directors have fewer attendance problems the more gender-diverse the board is, and women are more likely to join monitoring committees. These results suggest that gender-diverse boards allocate more effort to monitoring. Accordingly, we find that chief executive officer turnover is more sensitive to stock performance and directors receive more equity-based compensation in firms with more gender-diverse boards. However, the average effect of gender diversity on firm performance is negative. This negative effect is driven by companies with fewer takeover defenses. Our results suggest that mandating gender quotas for directors can reduce firm value for well-governed firms.


Work Preferences, Life Values, and Personal Views of Top Math/Science Graduate Students and the Profoundly Gifted: Developmental Changes and Gender Differences During Emerging Adulthood and Parenthood

Kimberley Ferriman, David Lubinski & Camilla Benbow
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, September 2009, Pages 517-532

Work preferences, life values, and personal views of top math/science graduate students (275 men, 255 women) were assessed at ages 25 and 35 years. In Study 1, analyses of work preferences revealed developmental changes and gender differences in priorities: Some gender differences increased over time and increased more among parents than among childless participants, seemingly because the mothers' priorities changed. In Study 2, gender differences in the graduate students' life values and personal views at age 35 were compared with those of profoundly gifted participants (top 1 in 10,000, identified by age 13 and tracked for 20 years: 265 men, 84 women). Again, gender differences were larger among parents. Across both cohorts, men appeared to assume a more agentic, career-focused perspective than women did, placing more importance on creating high-impact products, receiving compensation, taking risks, and gaining recognition as the best in their fields. Women appeared to favor a more communal, holistic perspective, emphasizing community, family, friendships, and less time devoted to career. Gender differences in life priorities, which intensify during parenthood, anticipated differential male-female representation in high-level and time-intensive careers, even among talented men and women with similar profiles of abilities, vocational interests, and educational experiences.


The Gender Gap in Secondary School Mathematics at High Achievement Levels: Evidence from the American Mathematics Competitions

Glenn Ellison & Ashley Swanson
NBER Working Paper, August 2009

This paper uses a new data source, American Mathematics Competitions, to examine the gender gap among high school students at very high achievement levels. The data bring out several new facts. There is a large gender gap that widens dramatically at percentiles above those that can be examined using standard data sources. An analysis of unobserved heterogeneity indicates that there is only moderate variation in the gender gap across schools. The highest achieving girls in the U.S. are concentrated in a very small set of elite schools, suggesting that almost all girls with the ability to reach high math achievement levels are not doing so.


The physiology of women's power motive: Implicit power motivation is positively associated with estradiol levels in women

Steven Stanton & Robin Edelstein
Journal of Research in Personality, forthcoming

This study examined the relationship between implicit power motivation (n Power) and salivary estradiol in women. Forty participants completed the Picture Story Exercise, a measure of n Power, and salivary estradiol levels from two saliva samples were determined with radioimmunoassay. We found that n Power was positively associated with estradiol levels. The positive correlation between n Power and estradiol was stronger in single women and women not taking oral contraceptives than in the overall sample of women. These findings replicate those of Stanton and Schultheiss (2007), giving further credence to the argument that women's dominance striving is positively associated with their endogenous estradiol levels and that both social and biological factors influence the nature of that association.


Does women's greater fear of snakes and spiders originate in infancy?

David Rakison
Evolution and Human Behavior, forthcoming

Previous studies with adult humans and nonhuman animals revealed more rapid fear learning for spiders and snakes than for mushrooms and flowers. The current experiments tested whether 11-month-olds show a similar effect in learning associative pairings between facial emotions and fear-relevant and fear-irrelevant stimuli. Consistent with the greater incidence of snake and spider phobias in women, results show that female but not male infants learn rapidly to associate negative facial emotions with fear-relevant stimuli. No difference was found between the sexes for fear-irrelevant stimuli. The results are discussed in relation to fear learning, phobias, and a specialized evolved fear mechanism in humans.


The genetic basis of entrepreneurship: Effects of gender and personality

Zhen Zhang, Michael Zyphur, Jayanth Narayanan, Richard Arvey, Sankalp Chaturvedi, Bruce Avolio, Paul Lichtenstein & Gerry Larsson
Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, forthcoming

Extending previous research on the genetic underpinnings of entrepreneurship, we investigate gender differences in the genetic influences on the tendency of people to become entrepreneurs. We also examined two mediating variables through which genetic factors may impact this tendency: extraversion and neuroticism. Based on 1285 pairs of identical twins (449 male and 836 female pairs) and 849 pairs of same-sex fraternal twins (283 male and 566 female pairs), we found that females have a strong genetic influence and zero shared-environmental influences on their tendency to become entrepreneurs. In contrast, males show zero genetic influence, but a large shared-environmental influence. Extraversion and neuroticism mediate the genetic influences on women's tendency to become entrepreneurs, whereas extraversion mediates shared-environmental influences on men's tendency to become entrepreneurs. We discuss this sharp difference in genetic influences on entrepreneurship across gender groups and highlight the different challenges that men and women face in their entrepreneurial endeavors.


Sunny Samaritans and Egomaniacs: Price-Fixing in the Gamete Market

Kimberly Krawiec
Law and Contemporary Problems, forthcoming

This Article considers the market structure of the human egg (or "oocyte") donation business, particularly the presence of anti-competitive behavior by the fertility industry, including horizontal price-fixing of the type long considered per se illegal in other industries. The Article explores why this attempted collusion has failed to generate the same public and regulatory concern prompted by similar behavior in other industries, arguing that the persistent dialogue of gift-giving and altruistic donation obscures both the highly commercial nature of egg "donation" and the benefits to the fertility industry of controlling the price of a necessary input into many fertility services — namely, eggs. A comparison to the egg market's closest cousin — the sperm market — does not reveal similar collusive attempts to depress the price of sperm. A further analysis of the industry explores potential reasons for this difference.


The Wages of Sin

Lena Edlund, Joseph Engelberg & Christopher Parsons
Columbia University Working Paper, June 2009

Edlund and Korn [2002] (EK) proposed that prostitutes are well paid and that the wage premium reflects foregone marriage market opportunities. However, studies of street prostitution in the U.S. have revealed only modest wages and considerable risks of disease and violence, casting doubt on EK's premise of an unexplained wage premium. In this paper, we present evidence from high-end prostitution, the so called escort market, a market that is, if not entirely safe, notably safer than street prostitution. Analyzing wage information on more than 40,000 escorts in the U.S. and Canada collected from a web site, we find strong support for EK. First, escorts in the sample earn high wages, on average $280/hour. Second, while looks decline monotonically with age, wages follow a hump-shaped pattern, with a peak in the 26-30 age bracket, which coincides with the most intensive marriage ages for women in the U.S. Third, the age-wage profile is significantly flatter, and prices are lower (5%), despite slightly better escort characteristics, in cities that rank high in terms of conferences, suggesting that servicing men in transit is associated with less stigma. Fourth, this hump in the age-wage profile is absent among escorts for whom the marriage market penalty is lower or absent: escorts who do not provide sex and transsexuals.


Gender and Capital Gains Taxation

Marjorie Kornhauser
Arizona State University Working Paper, June 2009

Most countries grant capital gains preferential treatment under their income tax laws by either excluding them from taxation or taxing them at a lower rate than wage or interest income. Although this preference is not uncontroversial, few people question it on grounds of gender. Nevertheless, gender issues exist. Most obviously, men as a group benefit more from the preference than women because they generally have more capital gains than women. Moreover, a major justification for the preference is that it increases economic growth by encouraging investments. However, to the extent it does so, it can have a disparate impact on men and women because economic growth can affect men and women differently. More subtle gender differences also exist. Empirical evidence suggests that attitudes and behaviors regarding financial decisions, including capital gains, are gendered. Women, for example, being more risk averse than men, may have fewer capital gains because they invest in fewer risky assets, which are the type of assets that produce the biggest capital gains. Risk aversion could produce this result even if men and women value economic growth equally, but it is possible that women do not value economic growth per se as highly as men do. They might value economic security and steady income more than men and therefore prefer less volatile investments that produce ordinary income, such as certificates of deposits, to riskier investments that produce capital gains. This essay explores the relationship between gender and capital gains taxation, an analysis that generally has been absent from debates about capital gains. Although it briefly looks at disparate impact due to disparities in economic situations, it concentrates on differences in attitudes and behaviors relative to capital gains. The essay's limited space permits only an introduction; a fuller discussion awaits not only more space, but more data.


Basic cognition in adulthood: Combined effects of sex and personality

Ann Pearman
Personality and Individual Differences, September 2009, Pages 357-362

This study was designed to explore the relationships between sex, personality, and basic cognitive processes. Using a representative adult sample of 245 participants (M age = 47.80 years) with processing speed and short-term memory (STM) as the dependent variables, sex, and personality traits were entered into multiple regression analyses. Sex (female) and personality (high Extraversion) positively predicted processing speeds (final βs = .25 and .24, respectively). In addition, there was a Sex X Conscientiousness interaction for processing speed in which females high in Conscientiousness were significantly faster than males high in Conscientiousness; low Conscientiousness scores were non-discriminatory between the sexes. Sex (male) and personality (high Extraversion, low Conscientiousness) were predictive of STM (final βs = -.17, .16, and -.19, respectively). Differences in cognitive styles or motivation levels in low conscientious and high conscientious men and women may account for these differences.


Gender, Context, and Television Advertising: A Comprehensive Analysis of 2000 and 2002 House Races

Virginia Sapiro, Katherine Cramer Walsh, Patricia Strach & Valerie Hennings
Political Research Quarterly, forthcoming

Are men and women portrayed differently in campaigns? Much scholarship and commentary expects that this is so, yet previous studies provide ambiguous evidence on the extent of gender difference.The authors provide a comprehensive analysis of gender differences in television advertisements in congressional races in 2000 and 2002 with data that allow them to take into account the frequency of airings, the sponsorship of the advertisements, partisanship, and competitiveness of the race. Although some gender differences emerge, the analysis reveals undeniable similarity in the presentation of male and female candidates in television advertisements.


Motivating Programming: Using storytelling to make computer programming attractive to middle school girls

Caitlin Kelleher
Carnegie Mellon University dissertation, 2006, 391 pages

Women are currently under-represented in computer science. Increasing the numbers of female students who pursue computer science has the potential both to improve the technology we create by diversifying the viewpoints that influence technology design and to help fill projected computing jobs. Numerous studies have found that girls begin to turn away from math and science related disciplines, including computer science, during middle school. By the end of eighth grade, twice as many boys as girls are interested in pursuing science, engineering, or technology based careers. In this thesis, I describe Storytelling Alice, a programming environment that gives middle school girls a positive first experience with computer programming. Rather than presenting programming as an end in itself, Storytelling Alice presents programming as a means to the end of storytelling, an motivating activity for a broad spectrum of middle school girls. The development of Storytelling Alice was informed by formative user testing with more than 250 middle school aged girls. To determine girls' storytelling needs, I observed girls interacting with Storytelling Alice and analyzed their storyboards and the story programs they developed. To enable and encourage middle school girls to create the kinds of stories they envision, Storytelling Alice includes high-level animations that enable social interaction between characters, a gallery of 3D objects designed to spark story ideas, and a story-based tutorial presented using Stencils, a new tutorial interaction technique. To determine the impact of the storytelling focus on girls' interest in and success at learning to program, I conducted a study comparing the experiences of girls introduced to programming using Storytelling Alice with those of girls introduced to programming using a version of Alice without storytelling features (Generic Alice). Participants who used Storytelling Alice and Generic Alice were equally successful at learning basic programming concepts. However, I found that users of Storytelling Alice show more evidence of engagement with programming. Storytelling Alice users spent 42% more time programming and were more than three times as likely to sneak extra time to continue working on their programs (51% of Storytelling Alice users vs. 16% of Generic Alice users snuck extra time).


from the


A weekly newsletter with free essays from past issues of National Affairs and The Public Interest that shed light on the week's pressing issues.


to your National Affairs subscriber account.

Already a subscriber? Activate your account.


Unlimited access to intelligent essays on the nation’s affairs.

Subscribe to National Affairs.