Undergraduate Women in Economics (UWE)

Project update: UWE Conference

On April 8-9 students and faculty from more than half of the UWE universities and colleges and other guests of the UWE Challenge came together for a two-day conference, hosted by the Department of Economics at the University of Virginia. The UWE Conference organizers identified the goals of the event as: 

- promoting an inclusive community within the field of economics, particularly for women and other underrepresented minorities in the discipline;
- engaging students, faculty, and others in conversation about the future of the field of economics, and
- providing resources that would empower students, faculty, and department staff to continue their institution's initiatives related to the UWE Challenge.

You can read about the event on the news page of University of Virginia's College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.


The Undergraduate Women in Economics Challenge is an initiative to encourage more undergraduate women to major in economics. The Challenge is designed as an RCT that will provide funding and guidance to 20 randomly selected schools to implement interventions that will fulfill this goal.

Nationwide there are about three males for every female student majoring in economics and this ratio has not changed for more than 20 years. (See the “Background Facts” section for more detailed information.) We believe that the relative lack of women in economics needs to be addressed.

(Video courtesy of the American Economic Association.)

The primary purpose of the Challenge is to raise awareness of the underrepresentation of undergraduate women in economics. Beyond that, it is an experiment to test the effectiveness of a deliberate intervention strategy by an economics department to recruit and retain female majors. Although there is not just one explanation for why gender differences persist, our Board of Experts from across the country met in November 2014 and identified several common causes of the problem across institutions. We now invite economics departments around the country to join in this initiative. 

This summer, the American Economic Association produced a video with the aim of showing students who are evaluating career options in economics or may have wondered what types of professionals utilize economics in various fields that economics can be applied to more than just banking and consulting. The AEA and the UWE encourage educators in high school and college to show this video to their students, to begin introducing them to the many diverse areas which employ the tools of economics.

The Challenge is funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation through the National Bureau of Economic Research and is endorsed by the American Economic Association. The project is administered by Tatyana Avilova at the NBER.