Who are the women on the world thinkers list?by Jessica Abrahams / April 24, 2013 / Leave a comment
What is interesting about the women on Prospect’s list of top world thinkers is not just that they have frogleaped their way onto a line-up still dominated by men (the proportion of women on the list has doubled since our last poll in 2008), but also the fields in which they’ve made that jump. Of the 15 female thinkers selected, well over half are known for their work in business, economics or politics—traditionally “male” arenas. Almost a third are economists—a higher proportion than the overall list.
With the eurozone crisis still rumbling on, Christine Lagarde is perhaps the most publicly visible of these. Following her appointment as head of the International Monetary Fund in 2011 she has been heavily involved in negotiating bailout packages for eurozone countries, most recently in Cyprus. Though forceful in her demands for bold and decisive action she has made it clear that austerity programmes should be slowed if growth fails to materialise and called for Greece to have extra time to meet its budget targets. The former lawyer and French finance minister has been outspoken about the urgent need for reform of the financial sector following the crisis, blaming it partly on a testosterone-fuelled banking culture. Lagarde is hugely respected—according to one former IMF chief economist, “at finance meetings all over the world she is treated practically like a rock star.” And Time magazine’s Vivienne Walt asked last month: “If Christine Lagarde can’t save Europe, who can?”
She was joined on Prospect’s list by fellow French economist Esther Duflo, who has also been dubbed an economic “rock star” by enthusiastic colleagues. But away from the economies of the eurozone Duflo specialises in those of the developing world. A professor of poverty alleviation and development economics at MIT, she is known for her hands-on approach. As the debate over the effectiveness of aid became stagnated, Duflo marched out into the field to settle the matter by experimentation—specifically, by conducting randomised control trials. In Hyderabad, for example, she (along with colleague Abhijit Banerjee) set up microloan programmes for half the city, left the other half untouched, and waited to see what the impact was (positive, but not revolutionary, they concluded.) She argues that poverty is really not understood and…