The Sexist Reason Families Keep Their Girls From Studying Economics (And why I did it anyway)

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When a girl is old enough to choose a career for herself, a lot of people around her try to influence her choice. Neighbourhood aunties and relatives come up with their unsolicited career advice and in some cases, even parents burden their child with expectations and force their decisions upon her. When I was about to choose a subject to pursue higher studies, I experienced similar pressure. But here’s the deal, at the end, I stayed firm on my decision and as a result, I am majoring in Economics from DU now.

I was raised by a single mother and since the death of my father, we need to consult our relatives before taking any crucial decisions.

But the journey to be able to chase my dreams was not easy for me. My relatives wanted me to major in social science and then take a teaching position at any nearby school. According to them, economics is a male-dominated field which isn’t suitable for women as it involves knowledge and understanding of finances, investment, mutual funds, financial market. And they are not alone. A lot of people think that women aren’t good at any field associated with numbers, be it STEM or economics. Often such stigma is peddled to keep women dependant on patriarchs and men and not seek individual financial freedom. This stigma has also created a dearth or female economists. And mind you, this isn’t a phenomenon restricted to India.

A 2018 Report from the American Economic Association’s Committee on the Status of Women in the Economics profession says that since the turn of the century, there has been no increase in the share of women entering the stream to become professional economists.

However, I do not believe in that this has got anything to do with women being bad with finances. My mom is a perfect example of how a woman can handle finances without having to rely on the men in her family. She took a stand for me although everyone was against my decision to pursue economics. My relatives tried to discourage me, saying that the subject is very technical and tough. But my kind was made up. And this wasn’t some kind of dissent or teen rebellion.

Your dreams and capabilities have nothing to do with your gender. And as Duflo pointed out just one woman can encourage many others to join.

I genuinely love economics and want to excel in this particular field. Keeping aside the interest in the subject there are a lot of other factors that pushed me to take economics. I have grown up in a family where women are not allowed to deal with money matters. The financial planning always rests on a men’s shoulder because women are considered to not be competent enough. But after the death of my father, I realised the importance of having a financial acumen as a woman. Initially, my mother had faced a lot of difficulties in dealing with money matters because she was simply not used to it. But after consulting experts she got to know how to invest and save money efficiently. From an early age, she started engaging me in money-related conservations and from there on my interest developed in the subject. I am the first girl in my family who is pursuing Economics and breaking the stigma that is rooted in the minds of my relatives.

Esther Duflo, the second woman to win a Nobel Prize in Economics is truly a role model for girls like me, who aspire to take up Economics for higher studies. During her Nobel Banquet speech, she said,” I am proud to represent women, and in particular in economics. I cannot help but hope that this prize, with its emphasis on the essential questions of how to improve the lives of others, and with one woman among the laureates will encourage many others to come join us.”

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Your dreams and capabilities have nothing to do with your gender. And as Duflo pointed out just one woman can encourage many others to join. Here’s hoping that more girls find it in themselves to overcome this stigma that women are bad at economics. The only way to squash this notion once and forever is to chase this subject and flood the field with girl power. It sounds difficult, but certainly not impossible if we commit to it.

Image Credit: Kyle Gregory Devaras on Unsplash

Divya Rawat is an intern with SheThePeople.TV. The views expressed are the author’s own.