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Closing the Gender Gap: SNU Department of Economics to Hire its First Female Korean Professor

May 18, 2018

On May 7, the Department of Economics announced it will be hiring its first female Korean professor, who will be appointed as early as Fall 2018. The department limited applicants to women for its recent faculty position opening in order to redress gender imbalance within the faculty. Currently, all 35 professors in the department are men.

Of the eight departments in the College of Social Sciences, including political science and international relations, psychology, sociology, and communications, the economics department is currently the only one without a female faculty member. Professor Sun Xifang, a Chinese national who was began working at SNU in 2009 and left in 2014, is the only female faculty member that the department has had.

A professor of the Department of Economics stated that “it’s unfortunate that it has taken so long for a Korean female professor to join the faculty,” adding, “I feel it is because in the past, very few Korean female scholars majored in economics and even fewer pursued a PhD in economics."

The number of female students studying economics has been steadily increasing. As of 2017, 33% of the Department of Economics undergraduates comprised female students, a sharp contrast to the less than 10% of female students in the 1990s. An official from SNU stated that because of such an increase of female students studying economics, the number of female applicants for professorship positions in the field of economics is higher than ever before.

Nevertheless, the number of women faculty remains small, particularly at the full professor level. Only 15% of SNU professors are female.

Other initiatives have been taken within SNU to close the gender gap. In response to criticism of gender inequality in decision-making committees, the College of Engineering recently passed a bill mandating the appointment of at least one female professor to its committee that makes decisions on the appointment and promotion of professors.

“For the sake of greater diversity, other colleges at SNU are expected to continue efforts to raise the ratio of female professors,” the SNU official said.

In doing so, SNU will not only be closing the gender gap, but will be promoting female talent in leading positions and providing young women with more role models for their own academic careers.

Written by Frances Seowon Jin, SNU English Editor,
Reviewed by Professor Travis Smith, Department of Asian Languages and Civilizations,