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The Mystery of the Missing Female Bloggers

In academia, as in business, getting ahead isn't just about performance. It's also about self-promotion. You can be the best, most productive member of your department or team and it won't help your career in the slightest if the right people don't know you're the best. Which is why UCLA professor Matthew Kahn was concerned when he examined a list ranking his fellow economists.

Among top economists, Kahn noticed, seven percent of the men blogged. How many top women economists were also taking to the web to spread their ideas? Exactly zero. Kahn thinks this is worrying as blogging can be an effective way for an economist to get noticed -- "to market his ideas and to 'amplify' his new academic results" -- so not blogging could put the ladies at a disadvantage.

But Kahn doesn't just note the absence of female bloggers, he also offers a theory to explain the blogging gap between the sexes:

A Household Production Theory of leisure would posit that men have more leisure time than working women and that nerdy guys spend more time reading and writing blog posts. If women who work are also providing more time in "home production" in cooking and rearing children then the time budget constraint will bind.
Or in other words, female economists are too busy taking care of the house and babies to promote their ideas on blogs. But is it true that fewer female economists blog because they're busy doing household chores? Diane Lim Rogers, a female economist who blogs at, has another explanation. Unlike male economists, she argues, most women simply aren't self-absorbed enough for frequent blogging:
Female economists have our own empirical (not just theoretical) reasons why those of us who blog aren't... at the top of the REPEC list. In my case, it's also closely related to why those of us (even non-excellent female economists) who blog don't typically blog at the same frequency as the (even most excellent) male economists who blog. It's called we have and care about other things and people in our lives, not just our own individual, introspective views about how the supposed world around us supposedly works (in our own opinion)! And that's even things and people other than what Matthew counts so endearingly as the "home production" sort of things -- you know, "cooking and rearing children."
And there's even one more explanation to consider. Matt Yglesias looks at the debate and suggests that the real differentiator that causes men to blog more than women isn't the distribution of household chores or an unequal amount of ego, but an overabundance of self-confidence in those with a Y chromosome. He writes, "in blogging, unlike in driving, I think overconfidence is rewarded. Overconfident drivers tend to die, whereas being wrong on the Internet is a time-honored way of getting links."

I find this debate fascinating (and relevant outside the confines of academic economics) because it touches on the intersection of gender, self-promotion and career "success." Do men really engage in much more self-promotion? (There is plenty of evidence women, in general, are less keen to stand out, but on the other hand there is also no shortage of successful woman bloggers.)

If so, is this because men have more time, ego, confidence or some combination of these? Finally, if we decide that there is a real difference, should women feel pressure to adopt male strategies or redefine them?

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(Image courtesy of Flickr user Mike Licht,, CC 2.0)