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How three women shattered glass ceilings to become the first female chief economists at global banks

How three women shattered glass ceilings to become the first female chief economists at global banks

LONDON/NEW YORK – There’s a specific phone dialog that HSBC Global Chief Economist Janet Henry has down pat.

Right here’s the way it goes: “You get a call from a headhunter,” she says. Then Henry inevitably finds herself saying, “No, I’m not interested.” However it doesn’t finish there. “They always say, ‘Do you know anyone that might be?’ I give them men’s names because I’m always curious to see if they’ll say — and they do say — ‘Yes, but do you know any women?’ “

As one of a handful of women leading economic research departments at global banks, Henry is well-positioned to observe the recent shift in demand for greater gender diversity within her profession. She looks back on her own experience as she sips tea from a disposable cup in a noisy cafe at HSBC Holdings PLC headquarters in London’s Canary Wharf. When she joined the bank in 1996, she was the only woman on its global economics team. Now women account for 13 of her 39-strong global group.

While there’s still nothing like equality in numbers with men, women are taking on prominent economic roles at major banks from Wall Street to the City of London. Henry is joined at the top by Catherine Mann, who became global chief economist at Citigroup Inc. in February, and Michala Marcussen, who was named Societe Generale SA’s group chief economist last year.

In that role they make big calls, identifying trends that can form the rationale for a bank’s decisions. Henry, one of the first of her peers to forecast that the European Central Bank would undertake quantitative easing, more recently warned that the “triple shock” of tightening U.S. monetary circumstances, larger oil costs, and President Trump’s aggressive commerce insurance policies is probably going to materially hurt the global financial system. Like different chief economists at banks, Henry typically takes to the buying and selling flooring to ensure that she will get her factors throughout to the money-making aspect of her establishment. At a time when perceptions matter and markets cry out for explainers, women chief economists are sometimes additionally a financial institution’s public face, presenting the establishment’s tackle macro developments on TV and radio in addition to at gatherings similar to the annual World Financial Discussion board in Davos, Switzerland.

Chief economist roles are huge jobs and might be steps on a profession ladder. Invoice Dudley, the former Goldman Sachs economics head, went on to become president of the New York Fed. Goldman Sachs’s Gavyn Davies turned chairman of the British Broadcasting Corp. in the early 2000s. Nonetheless, these positions are not often a conduit to greater jobs in finance. And when that has occurred, it’s occurred to males, like former Morgan Stanley chief economist-cum-Asia Chairman Stephen Roach.

Henry, Mann, and Marcussen are the first women to rise to their lofty positions at the banks the place they work. That’s a measure of progress, nevertheless it additionally underscores simply how far the banking business has to go. Women nonetheless type a stark minority in macroeconomics lecture rooms, a possible predictor of future gender imbalance. Whereas the emergence of extra women in key economics posts at banks marks a big change in a male-dominated career, it’s not a second for wild self-congratulation in the finance business.

For Henry, 49, a life in finance was definitely not the plan. In secondary faculty, she adopted her older brother’s instance and studied economics. She caught with it at College School London as a result of it was her greatest topic and since she appreciated the nexus of economics and politics — not as a result of she had a burning ambition to pursue its software in finance as a profession; she left that to her male classmates.

Graduating from UCL into the recession of the early 1990s, Henry needed to become a overseas correspondent at the Monetary Occasions. She landed her first job at the Economist Intelligence Unit, the place she wrote about the economies of nations akin to Myanmar and Papua New Guinea. Nonetheless at the EIU, she moved to Hong Kong, arriving at a time when the area’s heady markets have been peaking.

In 1996 her profession took a decisive flip. Scouted by a former EIU colleague, she joined HSBC on the eve of the Asian monetary disaster. After dwelling by way of the market rout because it raced from Thailand throughout a lot of the remainder of Asia, Henry moved to London in 1999. She was well-ensconced and prepared when the full pressure of the subprime-driven global meltdown hit about 9 years later. “At least it keeps you in demand,” she says, laughing. “A lot of the progress in my career happened as a consequence of the euro crisis. You’re always going to have a higher profile as an economist when things are not going well.”

Mann’s profession began early, with a babysitting gig in the 1970s. As a youngster in Lexington, Mass., the budding wonk taken care of a bit woman whose father labored for Knowledge Assets Inc., an financial forecasting firm. He gave Mann small data-analysis jobs as a aspect venture, and earlier than lengthy, she was trekking to the basement of the Baker Library at Harvard Enterprise Faculty in close by Cambridge to acquire housing-related numbers. She’d write them down on an enormous pad of paper, key the knowledge right into a teletype machine, and analyze stacks of regression output. She was hooked.

“Maybe I wasn’t such a good babysitter, but I was good at data,” says Mann, 62. “I really got an appreciation for how data helps us to understand how economies work.”

Learning economics at Harvard, Mann notably remembers two female assistant professors, future Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen and worldwide commerce economist Rachel McCulloch. Till she graduated in 1977, Mann had summer time jobs at Knowledge Assets.

After graduating from Harvard, Mann went down the street to get her doctorate at MIT, the place her thesis committee included the economist and future Nobel laureate Paul Krugman. She received her Ph.D., a job at the Federal Reserve in Washington, after which a succession of posts at the World Financial institution, the White Home Council of Financial Advisers, and the Peterson Institute for Worldwide Economics.

Position fashions and networking

McCulloch, who’d moved to Brandeis College, helped deliver Mann on board.

Mann turned a full professor in 2006 — an enormous transfer for somebody who hadn’t risen via the ranks of academia, and a uncommon one for a lady. Most tenured professors at prime college financial departments are males: Harvard didn’t have a single tenured lady in economics till 1990.

Mann says McCulloch needed her division to be extra numerous. “That gives you an idea of how important role models, female professors, and networking are in the profession as a whole,” Mann says. “That leadership — that commitment, that one person at Brandeis — has led to a situation where there is a fifty-fifty balance at the full professor level. That’s very rare.”

Mann left Brandeis in 2014 to become chief economist at the Group for Financial Cooperation and Improvement, making her the second lady in the physique’s historical past to tackle the position. About 4 years later, she made the bounce to Citigroup.

“I’ve done an awful lot of things,” she says. “I’ve achieved quite a bit. I’m not unique to be able to do that. You have to put one foot in front of the other.” She needs to construct on that: “I see my role as very similar to the role Rachel McCulloch played — as a leader, as a mentor, as making it easier for people to follow me.”

Marcussen’s expertise at the College of Copenhagen in the late 1980s mirrored Henry’s at UCL. Marcussen, a Dane, says males so outnumbered women in economics courses that her tutors selected to cluster the female college students collectively. “They didn’t want just a few women sitting in the classroom feeling somehow underrepresented,” she says, “so they decided to create more balance.”

Like Henry, Marcussen wasn’t all the time set on finance. She initially deliberate to work at the Danish Ministry of Overseas Affairs, however after getting an M.S. in economics at the College of Copenhagen, she labored briefly as a trainee at the European Fee in Brussels earlier than getting a full-time job at Danske Financial institution. In 1994 she landed a job at Societe Generale, regardless of, as she places it, her “rubbish French.”

Her French has gotten higher. Marcussen, 52, who speaks fluent English in a hard-to-place accent greatest described as worldwide, now holds complicated economics discussions on TV in France. Having risen by means of the SocGen ranks, she was named group chief economist final yr.

Of the 10 largest banks in the world by complete belongings, not one has a female chief government officer. Santander Financial institution NA, which ranked 16th final yr, comes closest, with Ana Botin as CEO. Women fare higher at public establishments and nongovernmental organizations which are maybe extra prone to societal pressures than business banks. Christine Lagarde leads the Worldwide Financial Fund. Laurence Boone, Mann’s just lately appointed successor at the OECD, is a lady. In 2014, after greater than a dozen years in different management roles at the Fed, Yellen turned the first lady to lead the central financial institution. About 40 % of Fed managers are female, and three of 14 coverage makers are women.

Even in the public sector, nevertheless, it’s straightforward to overstate progress. Portraits of former Fed chairs smile down from an anteroom wall in the historic Eccles Constructing in Washington. Whereas Yellen’s signature bob is in the combine, the group is essentially balding or bearded — and white: Like women, individuals of colour are a rarity. When Trump changed Yellen this yr, he selected a white man; former Fed Governor Jerome Powell. Though a lady and a black man have been amongst the candidates, the New York Fed lately named former San Francisco Fed President John Williams as its new chief, stirring criticism from those that’d hoped for higher variety.

Outdoors of the U.S., central banks are even much less numerous. One among 9 members of the Financial institution of England’s Financial Coverage Committee is a lady. The U.Okay. Treasury, which is answerable for appointments, this yr named one other white male to the MPC, regardless that all of the different interview candidates have been female. The European Central Financial institution’s 25-person Governing Council has two women, with one other on her means. In Japan, regardless of the undeniable fact that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has sought to promote variety, simply certainly one of the Financial institution of Japan’s nine-member coverage board is a lady. Most of the world’s main central banks have by no means had a lady at the very prime, together with the BOE, the ECB, the BOJ, and the Individuals’s Financial institution of China.

In finance usually, Marcussen says, the dearth of women economists is partly due to “the supply-side issue.” As she noticed in her economics courses, males sorely outnumbered women, they usually nonetheless do. Claudia Goldin, an economics professor at Harvard, has estimated that in the U.S. there are three male undergraduate economics majors for each lady. The hole isn’t shrinking. A better proportion of males at prime liberal arts schools studied economics in 2013 than in 1993, whereas the share of women fell barely.

Women have additionally been missed due to the sort of economics they research. “Women tend to go into fields like applied micro—things related to health, education, development,” says Tatyana Avilova, program director for the Undergraduate Women in Economics Problem, which goals to encourage extra women to main in economics. “You have women going into macroeconomics, but definitely to a much lesser extent. It’s a $1 million question: Why?” She suggests it might be more durable for college kids to see the real-world software of macro, whereas microeconomics is quickly relevant to fields together with well being and schooling.

Moreover, some analysis has discovered that women in economics are extra susceptible to being bullied than their male counterparts. Final yr, Alice Wu, then a College of California at Berkeley undergraduate, revealed a paper that quantified the gender-related vitriol in an internet dialogue discussion board, “Economics Job Market Rumors.” The phrases nameless posters utilized in distinctive affiliation with women included “hot,” “whore,” and “kissed.” These most related to posts about males embrace “macro” and “supervisor.”

Wu’s paper provoked an outcry. Justin Wolfers, a professor of economics and public coverage at the College of Michigan, wrote about Wu’s analysis in an opinion piece in the New York Occasions underneath the headline “Evidence of a Toxic Environment for Women in Economics.” Wu’s paper helped spur the American Financial Affiliation to revise its code of conduct, asking members to “conduct civil and respectful discourse in all forums.”

In the U.Okay., lawmakers investigating the imbalance between the sexes in the finance business cite hard-to-quantify obstacles. Alison McGovern — who sits on a parliamentary committee that oversees the Treasury and related our bodies, together with the Financial institution of England — factors to analysis displaying it takes longer for female educational economists to get their papers into peer-reviewed journals. “There’s a massive disincentive for women economists to reach the top of the academic profession,” she informed an viewers at Bloomberg LP’s European headquarters in London in June, “and I can only imagine the same thing might be true of women economists in the City.”

So involved is the committee about the lack of variety at the BOE that it’s taking issues into its personal palms, threatening not to approve future appointments to the central financial institution’s coverage boards until there’s enough progress.

Financial and enterprise sense

Mary Daly, government vice chairman at the San Francisco Fed and a favourite in the ongoing seek for the department’s subsequent president, will get calls not in contrast to people who attain Henry.

Typically, they’re from recruiters at banks hoping to rent a lady or a minority. She’s struck by what number of of her callers are on the lookout for economists with a macro background. Daly tries to encourage them to assume extra holistically. “Depending on how bold I feel that day or how much of their business I know,” she says, “I suggest that they broaden their field.”

Daly and like-minded colleagues in the Fed system have spent the higher a part of the previous 20 years pushing their in-house colleagues to incorporate microeconomic evaluation in the explanations of macro developments similar to falling labor pressure participation. The push for micro obtained traction in the wake of the Nice Recession, as normal macro fashions of the labor market failed to clarify what was occurring with unemployment and wages.

As chair, Yellen repeatedly referenced microeconomic work. In a 2014 speech, for instance, she cited Daly’s work into why employers are sluggish to minimize wages at the begin of recessions and why that leads to slower wage restoration post-recession. Daly says it’s time to rally round micro. “You have to make this value case that this toolkit is a useful toolkit,” she says. And as a aspect profit, she says, hiring microeconomists “dovetails exactly with the gender distribution in economics. You get gender diversity, and you get diversity of thought. It’s a win-win.”

For her half, Marcussen warns towards utilizing female economists as “exhibits to be dragged out and shown off.” She needs significant change: “If you get a bunch of women and a bunch of men that have all been to the same school and are from the same socioeconomic backdrop, OK, you may get diversity, but I don’t think you’ll get the diversity maximization.”

Banks will get critical once they see that variety, like portfolio diversification, is of their pursuits, Marcussen says. “It’s like climate change,” she says. “As long as diversity is something that’s just nice to have, only a small handful will invest the resources genuinely needed to address the issue. It’s mostly seen as just a nice advertisement. But once people start to understand that it really makes economic and business sense, that’s when it happens. And I think that is where we are right now.”