A Celebration of Women Economists I Admire on International Women’s Day

It’s 8th March, International Women’s Day. This year I want to take time to share some of the women in my profession who have inspired me and/or impacted me in my outlook and goals on my own contribution to the world. I mentioned these women in a newspaper article from I was featured and I was asked about whether there was gender balance in my profession, whether there is a need for women to upgrade their education, and my advice to the girl child, among other things. I have written more about that article here. I was only able to mention these economists by name in that article, but today I would like to go through a few of them in a bit more detail.

Christine Lagarde

So technically she is a lawyer, but she is among the first female economist I stumbled upon early in my career when I found her speech on financial inclusion. I was researching financial inclusion at the time and I was so impressed reading her speech that I looked her up. You already know she has held many ministerial positions including being the first female Minister of Finance of a G8 economy, the first woman to head the International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank, and even before all this in her law career, she was the first female chairman of Baker & McKenzie. That’s making major strides! There is so much more to this phenomenal woman. I am yet to have the opportunity to meet her. The closest I got was the 2019 IMF and World Bank Annual Meetings when we were in the same hall at one point. When I first visited France in 2018, it just so happens my husband went to the same high school as her (years apart obviously but still!) so he showed me the school. From the day I read that speech of hers till today, I follow her career and I am amazed at the pacesetter she is and how she continues to highlight and demonstrate the roles that women can play in positions of power as well as the critical challenges of gender disparity in the economy.

Photo Credit: By European Parliament from EU – New ECB Chief Lagarde to address plenary for first time, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=96224562

Naomi Ngwira

I did not know much about Dr. Ngwira throughout my time as an undergraduate economics student and found out more about her after she became the deputy governor of the Reserve Bank of Malawi. She is such a phenomenal woman and economist who has written on key economic issues in Malawi and held important positions. She is also someone who had focused on gender-related issues in development. My personal encounter with her was as Deputy Governor whilst I was also at the Reserve Bank. She spoke with boldness and she truly worked to elevate women in the workplace and encourage women to believe in and better themselves. I worked with her on one specific analytical piece on fiscal space and as senior as she was to me, she worked with us as a team of colleagues, which can be rare to see in our African work setting which can be quite hierarchical.

There is a proverb from the bible that’s close to my heart, it says “Without consultation and wise advice, plans are frustrated, But with many counselors, they are established and succeed.” I am someone who believes in a multitude of counsel and I ask for advice especially from those more experienced than me in the matters of interest. Dr. Ngwira is among the people I reached out to and asked for counsel on my career and I am grateful that she offered it. She is the only one on this list I have met several times and have personal contact with, but I am so grateful for people like her who have achieved so much but take the time to advise and encourage those that are coming up. That’s what I want to be for others as well.

Gita Gopinath

So now you are thinking I am basically into IMF women right? Well not necessarily. See my connections to these women are based on my encounter with them in my own career journey. As with Christine, I encountered Gita through my research on invoice currency (you can see more about that in my research tab). As I began my Ph.D., I kept finding her work so much so that I created a folder just with her work. I was so impressed at how much she displayed knowledge in the area. She is among the few who have published on exchange rate pass-through, invoicing currency, and tariff pass-through and I am looking forward yto her upcoming publication Tariff Pass-Through at the Border and at the Store: Evidence from US Trade Policy. And that’s very exciting for me who is interested in studying all of these aspects of international finance and trade. But I was even more impressed when she was appointed Chief Economist of the IMF. I am yet to meet her but the closest I came was at ETSG when a Princeton Ph.D. told me he knows her personally and she would be thrilled to hear about my research and I should email her. She may not reply but I should either way. I am yet to do so…

Picture Credit: https://scholar.harvard.edu/gopinath

Pinelopi “Penny” Goldberg

As with Gita Gopinath, I encountered Pinelopi Goldberg in my research for my thesis. And just like with Gita, I also ended up having a special folder with just her work. I was drawn to her vast research in international trade, especially on trade policy. I genuinely wanted to be able to write as well, as clearly, and have research as robust as her. She has also tackled trade in the context of development, global value chains, and firm dynamics, and a list of ewher work is available here. She was also the Chief Economist of the World Bank until March 2020 and is the President of the Econometrics Society of which I am a member, yay!

I haven’t had the opportunity to meet her yet, but I did attend a talk she gave at the World Bank in late 2019 so that’s something 🙂

Final words

There are, no doubt, a lot more awesome female economists out there, doing tremendous things and making a difference in their sphere of influence. Recently, we just had the first woman and the first African to be chosen as Director-General of the World Trade Organization, Dr Okonjo-Iweala!

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Picture Source: https://www.wto.org/english/news_e

The ones I have mentioned are the high-level ones that stand out to me personally and sincerely, because of how I encountered them in my own career journey. But let this be a shout-out to all female leaders out there making a difference! Feel free to share your women economists in the comments section below.

Happy International Women’s Day!

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