The glass ceiling cracks in the global economic hierarchy, a world that is still overwhelmingly dominated by men but where some women begin to take charge. In six months, three women have been appointed to lead the economic departments of the three multilateral reference institutions: Gita Gopinath has just been appointed to the International Monetary Fund (IMF); Pinelopi Koujianou holds the position in the World Bank (WB), and Laurence Boone in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
You only have to go through the annual meetings of the World Economic Forum in Davos or the symposium of central bankers in Jackson Hole to understand the relevance of this triple appointment. The discussions that influence the policies of governments are essentially limited to men. And this happens while the number of women studying economics stagnates in the universities of the United States, where they are a clear minority among professionals in the field.
Janet Yellen made history when she was named in October 2009 the first woman to head the US Federal Reserve, as Christine Lagarde was also forerunner at the International Monetary Fund, where she continues to be managing director. The US Treasury never had a woman in charge and they are at a clear disadvantage in the departments of the 20 major American universities, with a difference of six to one compared to men. To date, only one woman was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics, Elinor Ostrom in 2009.
The first chief economist of the IMF
The appointment this Monday of Gita Gopinath caused so much expectation. The 46-year-old Indian economist impressed Ben Bernanke himself, former president of the Federal Reserve. Two years ago she said in an interview that she was one of the best students she ever had. The great expert of the Great Depression guided him in Princeton while preparing his doctorate. That was before he was appointed to chair the Federal Reserve.
The still professor of international economic studies at Harvard will take over from Maurice Obsfeld. He will occupy the same position as another of his mentors, Kenneth Rogoff, who headed the IMF's economic department between 2001 and 2003. Gita Gopinath jumped into the headlines in the US a few years ago when she managed to become the third woman to be appointed teacher holder of economics at the prestigious academic institution in Boston. Before that he was an assistant at the business school in Chicago.
His appointment, like that of Pinelopi Koujianou in the World Bank, occurs at a particularly sensitive moment and his way of thinking can take the analysis of the organization in another direction when analyzing the challenges derived from globalization. Diversity itself already represents a challenge to the established norm. But although the statistics show a contrary image, the economist says she does not feel discriminated against in the macroeconomic discussion.
Koujianou, of Greek origin, 55 years old, was appointed chief economist at the end of April. She was an economics professor at Yale. He spent much of his career examining emerging and developing countries. Its rigor and academic experience, therefore, will be key to defining from the sister institution of the IMF policies that better prepare these economies before future shocks and ensure a better distribution of opportunities arising from growth.
The trinity of the global macroeconomic debate is completed by Laurence Boone, a 49-year-old Frenchwoman. He worked as chief economist for the insurance company AXA and was an advisor to former French president Francois Hollande. In her case, she replaces another woman in the position of chief economist of the OECD, Catherine Mann. The three will have among their main tasks to analyze the economic situation and propose policies at a time when multilateral institutions are threatened by economic nationalism.
Three key departments
The economic analysis departments of the IMF, the World Bank and the OECD are of great influence. The three organizations are also trying to evolve their way of thinking and their practices, so that their examination is more realistic. Trade, productivity, debt, capital flows and systems of change are part of a complex global puzzle in which the economy and finances are intertwined. These are areas that Gopinath studied in depth.
The group of great global economists is completed by Kristalina Georgieva, 65 years old. The Bulgarian, who competed with António Guterres for the United Nations General Secretariat, was appointed a year ago as General Director of the World Bank after passing through the European Commission, where she was in charge of budget management. It can also include the British Clare Lombardelli, who at 39 is the chief economist of the Treasury of the United Kingdom.
Another one of the economists that with its reflection and discipline is influencing the global debate is Reinhart. The professor at the School of Governance at Harvard University worked as chief economist at the investment bank Bear Stearns and at the IMF. She is considered one of the most relevant thinkers of the moment. Of her same generation is Christina Romer, the second woman who headed the White House advisory council, with Barack Obama.