Economics reproduces itself as a [white] man's field through resistance to demographic and epistemic diversity. Although some resistance is expressed by anonymous individuals, they are neither the sole nor the primary source. Resistance is internal to the discipline; it is structural. It is present in the vertical organization of the profession, the seemingly neutral forms of evaluation that institutionalize gender bias, and the marginalization of certain topics and critical perspectives. Because resistance is structural, even if individuals do not discriminate, the discipline will remain resistant to diversity.
The conceptualization of work as paid employment alone reflects gender ideology and plays a key role in the devalorization of unpaid work—those who do it and research about it. Concepts and methods from feminist political economy link the orthodox conceptualization of work, and the value system underpinning it, to the experiences of women economists between 1970 and the present. I find that economics remains a “man's field” through structural resistance to women economists, through interpreting women's economic activities as marginal to the “real business” of economics, and by delegitimizing feminist research about those activities. The delegitimization of feminists' paid work as economists functionally devalues women's unpaid work in economic thought. Because economic thought is influential outside the economics discipline, the delegitimization of feminist economic research devalues women's unpaid work outside the discipline as well.
Efforts to “fix” structural resistance to diversity without addressing the devalorization of the gendered work required to reproduce people are likely to have limited impacts. They may contribute to demographic diversity, but demographic diversity will not automatically translate into theoretical diversity in a discipline that marginalizes critical thought. Diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts should ensure that nonwhite and nonmen economists have pathways to advancement with scope for academic freedom. This is especially necessary when their intellectual contributions challenge the value systems and the unequal power relations that economic orthodoxy reinforces.