Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 04/2012

Would Women Leaders Have Prevented the Global Financial Crisis? Implications for Teaching about Gender and Economics

Julie A. Nelson

October 2011

Global Development and Environment Institute at Tufts University


Would having more women in leadership have prevented the financial crisis? This question challenges feminist economists to once again address questions of "difference" versus "sameness" that have engaged—and often divided—academic feminists for decades. The first part of this essay argues that while some behavioral research seems to support an exaggerated "difference" view, non-simplistic behavioral research can serve feminist libratory purposes by debunking this view and revealing the immense unconscious power of stereotyping, as well as the possibility of non-dualist understandings of gender. The second part of this essay argues that the more urgently needed gender analysis of the financial industry is not concerned with (presumed) "differences" by sex, but rather with the role of gender biases in the social construction of markets. An Appendix discusses specific examples and tools that can be used when teaching about difference and similarity.