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What happens when women run the economy?

04/07/2021 | 05:58pm EDT

We're about to see what happens when women work to correct a global economic crisis.

Women now hold many of the jobs controlling the world's largest economy and major global economic institutions.

In the U.S., Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and trade czar Katherine Tai hold top jobs in President Joe Biden's administration, and nearly 48% of his confirmed cabinet-level officials are women.

YELLEN: "We're expecting a rapid recovery. I'm hoping we'll be back to full employment next year, and once we are, we're going to turn to a longer-term agenda of investment: investment in infrastructure, in R&D, in people."

This sea change may be already affecting economic policy by shifting the focus to people instead of numbers.

Biden's new $2.3 trillion spending plan includes $400 billion to fund the "care economy" - essential social care work normally done by women that has mostly gone ignored in the past.

Reuters journalist Andrea Shalal:

SOUNDBITE (English) JOURNALIST ANDREA SHALAL: "And this is what is so fundamentally different. So instead of thinking about infrastructure as just being the roads, the bridges, the highways that connect our society, it's talking about the human beings that actually make the economy go. The care economy is an economy, whether it's taking care of children or taking care of people with disabilities. Those are jobs that are going to stay and they're going to be important, but they've traditionally been really under compensated. So one in six people who works in this care economy is living below the poverty line. They're living in poverty, although they're working full time. Righting that balance is what's going on now, and that's not just happening in the United States. This kind of thinking is playing an important role in decisions that are being made also by institutions like the International Monetary Fund, which is also led by a very powerful female leader, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development."

Outside the United States, there's Christine Lagarde at the helm of the European Central Bank with its 2.4 trillion euro balance sheet.

Kristalina Georgieva heads up the International Monetary Fund with $1 trillion in lending power.

And Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala runs the World Trade Organization - all jobs held by men a decade ago.

Overall, there are women running finance ministries in 16 countries, and 14 of the world's central banks, according to think tank OMFIF.

And the stakes are high.

The global recession has been referred to as a "she-session," because of how hard it has hit women.

Women comprise 39% of the global workforce, but account for 54% of overall job losses, according to a recent McKinsey study.

The IMF's Kristalina Georgeieva:

(SOUNDBITE) (English) INTERNATIONAL MONETARY FUND, MANAGING DIRECTOR AND CHAIRWOMAN, KRISTALINA GEORGIEVA, SAYING: "A crisis is an opportunity. Our research shows that public investment, especially in green projects and digital infrastructure, can be a game-changer with the potential to create millions of new jobs, well-paying jobs while boosting productivity, raising incomes. Supporting workers as they transition to new jobs is a key element of a more resilient and inclusive future, particularly important for those most affected today, women, young people. They are those that should benefit from a just transition."

© Reuters 2021
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