Women comprise around one-third of the economics profession in Australia. This figure has not budged for several decades and there are indications that women’s share of students in the education pipeline is shrinking. Women’s underrepresentation in economics is evident across the public, private and academic sectors, and is most acute among senior levels. 

Bar chart showing count of economics qualification holders in Australia by gender. In 2006, 2011 and 2016, there were almost 50% more men than women with economics qualifications, although the number of economics qualification holders increased over time. 

Bar chart showing gender share of academics, by level, in economics departments in Australian universities in 2016. Most academics were men. The proportion of women generally decreased as seniority increased, dropping from 33% at the Research Fellow level to just 12% at the Professor level. 

Bar chart showing gender share of Australian economics qualification holders. Women made up 37%, 38% and 40% of economics-qualified people in 2006, 2011 and 2016 respectively. 

Bar chart showing gender share of domestic commencing enrolments in bachelor economics degrees, biennially from 1989 to 2015. Throughout that period, female share of enrolments remained fairly steady at around 40%. 

In response to the persistent underrepresentation of women in the economics profession in Australia, the Women in Economics Network (WEN) was created in 2017 as a nationwide, multi-sectoral association for female economists in Australia, as part of the Economic Society of Australia (ESA).  

Though still in its infancy, WEN’s impact is evidenced by an increase in women’s share of ESA membership from 25 per cent to 40 per cent within a year of WEN’s creation. Female memberships with the ESA rose by 90 per cent. 

To support broader global efforts to improve diversity and inclusion in the economics profession, this paper provides a statistical picture of women’s representation in economics in Australia and the evidence-based steps taken to establish WEN and to design its initiatives. 

WEN’s impact is evaluated across a range of quantitative and qualitative metrics. The evaluation includes a case study of WEN’s mentorship program for university students that was delivered as a behavioural intervention and evaluated as a randomised control trial. Drawing on practical experiences and research insights, the paper also identifies some of the challenges encountered and the lessons that can be shared with similar organisations globally that are pursuing diversity and inclusion goals. 

Table 1: How would you rate the value of WEN’s services and activities? Source: Survey conducted by Women in Economics Network Australia, September 2021. Sample of 115 responses, comprised of 71 members and 44 non-members. Rows sum to 100%. 

Highly valuable Moderately valuable A little value Not much value
Promoting contributions of female economists 62% 26% 8% 4%
Advocacy for greater representation of women in economics 56% 31% 10% 3%
Seminar/webinar events on economics topics 51% 30% 12% 7%
Mentoring programs and annual mentoring retreat 50% 23% 12% 14%
Media and public speaking register for female economists 44% 36% 15% 5%
Professional development workshops 40% 39% 10% 11%
Australian Gender Economics Workshop 38% 33% 22% 7%
Professional networking opportunities 37% 32% 19% 11%
Career and study information for students 37% 34% 19% 10%
Outreach activities with schools 36% 30% 22% 12%
Social media pages 31% 31% 27% 10%
Special sessions at Australian Conference of Economists 26% 33% 34% 7%
Provision of general information and resources on website 26% 43% 23% 7%



  • Duygu Yengin, University of Adelaide 


  • Leonora Risse, RMIT University 
  • Rebecca Cassells, Commonwealth Treasury and Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre
  • Danielle Wood, Grattan Institute