Does Exposure to More Women in Male-Dominated Fields Render Female Students More Career-Oriented?

62 Pages Posted: 23 Feb 2021 Last revised: 9 Mar 2021

See all articles by Bruna Borges

Bruna Borges

University of São Paulo

Fernanda Estevan

Sao Paulo School of Economics - FGV

Date Written: February 19, 2021


The underrepresentation of women in male-dominated fields of study can generate a lack of role models for female students, which may influence their career choices. This paper sheds light on this question, investigating the existence of impacts of the gender composition of instructors and peers in the Department of Economics from a selective Brazilian university. Specifically, we analyze whether having higher shares of female professors and classmates throughout undergraduate studies in Economics affects female students' labor market outcomes. We use comprehensive administrative data from the University of Sao Paulo, containing information on students' academic results and students', instructors', and course sections' characteristics. We merge these data with Brazilian labor market and firm ownership data to obtain a broad range of career outcomes, including labor force participation, occupational choices, career progression, and wages. To overcome endogeneity issues arising from students' self-selection into professors and peers, we exploit the random assignment of students in the first-semester classes and focus on mandatory courses. A higher representation of women in a male-dominated field, such as Economics, increases female students' labor force participation. Moreover, larger female faculty shares increase the probability that a female student becomes a top manager. These results suggest ways to counteract the highly discussed glass ceiling in high-earning occupations. We show that students' academic performance and elective course-choice are not driving the effects. Instead, we find suggestive evidence that higher shares of female classmates may increase the likelihood of working during undergraduate studies, leading to stronger labor market attachment.

Keywords: gender, economics, higher education, glass ceiling, labor market

JEL Classification: J16, J24, I23

Suggested Citation

Borges, Bruna and Estevan, Fernanda, Does Exposure to More Women in Male-Dominated Fields Render Female Students More Career-Oriented? (February 19, 2021). Available at SSRN: or

Bruna Borges

University of São Paulo ( email )

Avenida Professor Luciano Gualberto, 908
São Paulo, São Paulo 05508-010

Fernanda Estevan (Contact Author)

Sao Paulo School of Economics - FGV ( email )

Rua Itapeva 474 s.1202
São Paulo, São Paulo 01332-000

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