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APSU business faculty member advancing women and gender equity with her research at Harvard

Dr. Elif Demiral Saglam

Dr. Elif Demiral Saglam, Austin Peay State University assistant professor of economics, recently embarked on her second year as a research fellow with the Harvard Kennedy School’s Women and Public Policy program. She is the first APSU faculty member to receive this honor, and the fellowship is a continuation of her desire to advance women and gender equity in the workforce.

The fellowship enables Saglam to connect with other like-minded researchers at Harvard. She participates in weekly research seminars, actively explores new research ideas with Harvard faculty and fellows, and has already delivered two research presentations. Her work aims to inform policymakers and offer alternative organizational practices to advance women’s presence in all fields and at all levels. 

“As an Austin Peay faculty member, I incorporate what we know and discover about gender inequalities and the possible solutions into my teaching,” Saglam said. “I am highly motivated to train future leaders who can create a more gender-equal world while also furnishing my female students with the practical skills and tools to navigate in the current system.”

In her research, Saglam uses behavioral and experimental methods to recommend evidence-based strategies that promote equal and bias-free opportunities for women and men. She studies the behavioral differences between the sexes that contribute to widely observed gender gaps in the economy.

One stream of her research investigates the willingness of men and women to engage in competitive environments. Along with her co-authors, Saglam confirmed previous research that suggests women shy away from competition. However, Saglam and her team discovered that no gender gap exists when competition is against one’s own performance (self-competition). This finding provides a possible solution to reduce gender gaps in the labor market.

Creating opportunities for self-competition in the workplace can make women as equally competitive as men, reducing the gaps in earning and representation. Fostering self-competition can be especially important to encourage female participation in more competitive yet lucrative fields, such as technology and finance.

Saglam also studies the differences in confidence between men and women and the role these differences play in employment decisions.

“We cannot turn our back to half of the population and let gender biases and other barriers restrain women’s aspirations for life,” she said. “We must uncover the reasons why there are gender inequalities in economic opportunities and discover what the successful interventions could be to close such gaps. I am greatly honored and humbled by the opportunity to connect with the Harvard faculty and fellows, whose expertise and global reach influence important decision-makers worldwide. I also feel privileged to be able to share my experiences as a Harvard fellow with my students at APSU!”

For information about the College of Business and its faculty, visit www.apsu.edu/business.

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