Women now hold many of the jobs that control the world’s largest economy – and they are trying to solve the problem.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and Trade Czar Katherine Tai hold senior positions in the administration of US President Joe Biden and many of his economic advisers are also women, as are almost 48% of its civil servants confirmed at cabinet level.
This sweeping shift may already be affecting economic policy – a new $ 2.3 trillion spending plan introduced by Biden last week includes $ 400 billion to fund the “care economy,” supporting home-based jobs and in the community taking care of children and the elderly, a job normally done by women who are mostly ignored in recent years.
The plan also has hundreds of billions of dollars more to correct racial and rural-urban inequalities that were created in part by past economic, trade and labor policies.
Yellen says the focus on “human infrastructure” and the previous $ 1.9 trillion bailout bill should translate into significant improvements for women, whose share of the workforce had reached. a low of 40 years even before the crisis and for everyone as well.
“Ultimately, this bill could be 80 years of history: it begins to solve the structural problems that have plagued our economy for the past four decades,” she wrote on Twitter, adding, “This is just the start for us.”
Women leaders can bring a new perspective to economic policy, say experts.
“When you’re different from the rest of the group, you often see it differently,” said Rebecca Henderson, professor at Harvard Business School and author of Reimagining Capitalism in a World on Fire.
“You tend to be more open to different solutions,” she said and that’s what the situation calls for. “We are in a moment of enormous crisis. We need new ways of thinking. “
Over the past half century, 57 women have served as their country’s president or prime minister, but the institutions that make economic decisions have been largely controlled by men until recently.
Outside the United States, there is Christine Lagarde at the head of the European Central Bank with her balance sheet of 2.4 trillion euros ($ 2.8 trillion), Kristalina Georgieva at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) with his $ 1 trillion lending power, and Ngozi Okonjo- Iweala at the World Trade Organization – all male jobs 10 years ago.
Overall, women head finance ministries in 16 countries and 14 of the world’s central banks, according to an annual report prepared by OMFIF, a think tank on central banking and economic policy.
The limited measures available suggest that women have better experience managing complex institutions during crises.
“When women are involved, the evidence is very clear: communities are better, economies are better, the world is better,” Georgieva said in January, citing research compiled by the IMF and other institutions.
“Women make great leaders because we empathize and stand up for the most vulnerable. Women are decisive… and women may be more willing to find a compromise. “
A study by the American Psychological Association showed that US states with female governesses had fewer deaths from COVID-19 than those led by men, and Harvard Business Review reported that women scored significantly better in 360-degree assessments of 60,000 executives between March and June 2020..
Women make up less than 2% of CEOs of financial institutions and less than 20% of board members, but the institutions they lead show greater financial resilience and stability, IMF research shows.
Eric LeCompte, UN adviser and executive director of a nonprofit group that advocates for debt relief, said he noticed a clear difference during a meeting with Yellen and leaders of Christian and Jewish religious groups last month.
“I have been meeting Treasury Secretaries for 20 years, and their talking points have been completely different,” he said. “In every area we discussed, Yellen emphasized empathy and the impact of policies on vulnerable communities.”
His male predecessors had a “brass knuckle” approach that initially focused on “numbers, not people” and never mentioned words like “vulnerable,” he said.
Take the heat
The stakes are high.
The global recession linked to the coronavirus pandemic is actually a ‘talk shop’, many economists say, because of how hard it has hit women.
Women make up 39 percent of the global workforce, but account for 54 percent of all job losses, according to McKinsey, management consultants, in a recent study. In the United States, women accounted for more than half of the 10 million jobs lost during the COVID-19 crisis and more than 2 million women have completely left the workforce.
Bringing these women back to work could increase gross domestic product by 5% in the United States, 9% in Japan, 12% in the United Arab Emirates and 27% in India, the world’s largest democracy, estimates the IMF.
Georgieva said on Tuesday that the IMF has set quantitative targets to ensure countries focus their stimulus spending on health, education, social protection and women’s empowerment after years of neglect. “If we don’t, we risk increasing inequalities,” she said.
The rise of women leaders should lead to “a more inclusive response – in the truest sense of the word – to the many, many challenges that are the legacy of COVID,” said Carmen Reinhart, Chief Economist of the World Bank, in Reuters news agency. .
Tai, the first woman of color to lead the office of the U.S. Trade Representative, told her staff to think outside the box, embrace diversity, and speak to communities long ignored.
Okonjo-Iweala, also the first African to lead the World Trade Organization, which oversaw trade flows of nearly $ 19 trillion in 2019, said meeting the needs of women would mark an important step towards rebuilding deeply eroded trust in government and global institutions.
“The lesson for us is (to) make sure… that we don’t go into business as usual,” said Okonjo-Iweala, who was also Nigeria’s first female finance minister. “It’s about people. It is a question of inclusiveness. This is decent work for ordinary people, ”she told Reuters.