''An old group photograph taken after an official farewell given to the head of economic research at the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) sometime in the late 1940s tells us something important. There are only a handful of women among dozens of men. One of the women in the photo is Nalini Ambegaonkar. A senior economist who worked with the Indian central bank told me that she was in charge of the credit planning cell that later became the monetary policy department.
The recent appointment of Gita Gopinath as the chief economist of the International Monetary Fund has once again thrown the spotlight on the glass ceiling in economics. She now joins World Bank chief economist Pinelopi Koujianou Goldberg and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development chief economist Laurence Boone. Elinor Ostrom is the only woman to have won the Nobel Prize in economics. I asked in a June 2012 column whether there is a gender bias in economics (see Here’s To You, Mrs Robinson). This instalment of Cafe Economics focuses on some of the most talented female economists in India. The list is obviously not comprehensive, and I ran it past a few economist friends.
Let us begin with someone who joined the RBI around the time that old photo was taken. Dharma Kumar joined the central bank after returning from Cambridge. She later abandoned the policy world to become an influential economic historian whose insights into caste, as Ramachandra Guha once noted, were in the tradition of Jotirao Phule and B.R. Ambedkar. She also sparked off a debate in 1991 when she wrote a letter on how the Economic and Political Weekly had strayed from the eclectic intentions of its founder editor and had been hegemonized by Marxist intellectuals."
Read the full article here.