Winds of change

The number of women taking up careers in economics is growing; but they will have to train themselves to be heard

April 06, 2019 02:11 pm | Updated 02:11 pm IST

The appointment of Gita Gopinath, an Indian-American, as the chief economist in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 2019 has been encouraging for aspiring women economists, while marking the acceptance and participation of women in this sector. A recent survey by the Ministry of HRD, Government of India for 2017-18 said that out of 97,623 students who enrolled for a PhD, MPhil or PG in economics, 56% (54,876) were women.

Meghnad Desai Academy of Economics (MDAE) has also observed a similar trend with more than 50% of its student applications and enrolments being that of women.

Lubna Akhtar, who pursued her postgraduation in economics from MDAE and is currently working as junior analyst at JP Morgan said, “The classes were mostly women dominated, which was a wonderful feeling. However, there is an inherent bias in the industry that only men are good in technical fields whereas women are conditioned to believe that these fields are not for them. I remember there was a lot of confusion in the class when the option of econometrics (a technical subject) was offered as a choice and not many women students were comfortable taking it up.”

Going practical

According to Dhvani Kamdar, Assistant Vice President at Knight Frank, the widening gap between the economics in academia and real world-economics is exceptionally disparate. This problem needs to be addressed by including live projects, case studies, and panel discussions. Economics shouldn’t be reduced to pure theoretical knowledge and should be backed by practical experiments. Encouraging women to enter the field, she said, “Leadership is gender neutral and in order to get an edge in corporate sectors, one must blend economics with other subjects like public policy and marketing.”

Though Dhvani and Lubna claim that they do not face biases due to gender politics, Kadambari Shah, an associate at IDFC institute felt that women must be outspoken and voice their opinions in the male-dominated boardrooms.

She adds,“In high level conferences and during panel discussions, there is deliberate step to accommodate women employees. Awareness is being built within the workspaces which are gradually turning into a reality.”

Arushi Mishra, another economics student now working as a consultant at Fractal Analytics says, “In the next five years, there will be a rising demand for economists, researchers, consultants and analysts, and women should be prepared to grab these opportunities, as corporate sectors are becoming more inclusive on all fronts.”

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