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  • Daira Povez-Gamboa

How are Female Economists Redefining Everything?

Economics has always been a male-dominated field. We've all heard of John Maynard Keynes, Milton Friedman, or Thomas Piketty. However, female economists are revolutionizing the field by “questioning the meaning of everything”. From “value”, “debt” to “growth and GDP”, Esther Duflo, Stephanie Kelton, Mariana Mazzucato, Carlota Perez, and Kate Raworth remind us how “newcomers” can see the game more clearly than long-term players.

They send us four main messages:

1. Get Over It - Challenge the Orthodoxy

Mariana Mazzucato is described as “one of the most forward-thinking economists of our times”. She is A professor at University College London and the Founder/Director of the UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose. Some of her fundamental questions are: How “value” has been defined? Who decides what it means? Who gets to measure it? She aims to make economics serve the people, rather than explain their servitude.

Stephanie Kelton, a leading expert on Modern Monetary Theory and a former Chief Economist on the U.S. Senate Budget Committee, makes us rethink our approach to debt. Her best-seller book “The Deficit Myth” highlights that debt should be considered as a strategic investment in the future, and deficits should be seen as a neutral and powerful policy tool.

“Deficits can help us fight a myriad of problems that plague our economy–inequality, poverty and unemployment, climate change, housing, health care, and more. But we can’t use deficits to solve problems if we continue to think of the deficit itself as a problem”.

2. Get Green Growth - Reshaping Growth Beyond GDP

Kate Raworth, a Senior Research Associate at Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute, is the author of Doughnut Economics. Her book explored the economic thinking needed to bring humanity into the Doughnut, drawing together insights from diverse economic perspectives in a way that everyone can understand. Kate “challenges our obsession with growth, and its outdated measures”. She highlights how we should move away from the linear and upward moving lines of “progress”, to a “regenerative and distributive model… a doughnut” (it consists of two concentric rings: a social foundation, to ensure that no one is left falling short on life’s essentials, and an ecological ceiling, to ensure that humanity does not collectively overshoot the planetary boundaries that protect Earth's life-supporting systems. Between these two sets of boundaries lies a doughnut-shaped space that is both ecologically safe and socially just: a space in which humanity can thrive).

Carlota Perez, British-Venezuelan researcher, lecturer, international consultant and Honorary Professor at the Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose (IIPP) at University College London, says “Green won’t spread by guilt and fear, we need aspiration and desire”. Carlota Perez studies the mutual shaping of technical change and society and the lessons provided by the history of technological revolutions for economic growth and development. Her aim is a redefinition of the “good life” and the necessity of “smart green growth” through a desire for new and attractive lifestyles.

3. Get Good Government - The Strategic Role of the State

All 5 female economists encourage the state to play a major role. “You need an active state to tilt the playing field toward social good”, mentions Carlota Perez.

Mariana Mazzucato challenges governments to be more ambitious by gaining confidence and public trust to ensure the public good. “Governments should be using their power - both of investment and procurement - to orient efforts towards the big challenges on our horizon, not just the immediate short-term recovery.”

4. Get Real - Beyond the Formulae and Into the Field

Esther Duflo, Professor of Poverty Alleviation and Development Economics at MIT and Nobel Prize of economics is the major proponent of bringing what is accepted practice in medicine to the field of economics. She and her husband, Abhijit Banerjee, have pioneered randomised control trials across hundreds of locations in different countries of the world, winning a Nobel Prize for Economics in 2019 for the insights. Duflo is a National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) research associate, a board member of the Bureau for Research and Economic Analysis of Development (BREAD), and director of the Centre for Economic Policy Research's development economics program. Her research focuses on microeconomic issues in developing countries, including household behaviour, education, access to finance, health, and policy evaluation.

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