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At the end of June, the Globe's Tavia Grant and I used the selection of Christine Lagarde as head of the International Monetary Fund to write about the dearth of women in the economics profession.



The challenge with an article like this is answering one simple question: so what?

Tavia tracked down some experts who said the reason to care about the paucity of women in economics is that policy ends up being dominated by men, who tend to think about the world differently than does about half the population.

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Wednesday at the Lindau Meeting on Economic Sciences, which has assembled 17 past recipients of the Nobel Prize and about 350 young economists culled from more than 5,000 applications, the notion that women might approach economics differently than men was made concrete – if only for about a half-hour in the form of panel discussion.





On stage were three laureates – Joseph Stiglitz (2001, USA), Daniel McFadden (2000, USA) and Roger Myerson (2007, USA) – and two younger researchers, Theodore Koutmeridis from Warwick University in Britain and Stefanie Stantcheva from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston.







Each participant was asked to discuss what they saw as the greatest threat to the "sustainability" of international economics.







Prof. Stiglitz stuck close to the headlines, arguing that policy makers should buckle down to preserve the euro zone in its present form. Prof. McFadden said the global economy needs stronger institutions, imagining an International Monetary Fund, for example, that had the resources and political independence to act as a proper early warning station. Prof. Myerson said the profession still – incredibly -- has a poor handle on the role of banks in economies and the financial system. Mr. Koutmeridis said policy makers and the profession have yet to grasp the powerful role of media in disseminating information – and, on occasion, spreading financial panic.







And Ms. Stantcheva? It was as though she was from a different planet. (I'll let you guess which one.) She said the biggest challenges to policy making are the overall health of the people living in the economies that governments and central banks seek to manage, and growing income inequality within and across countries.







Her point was a simple one: If too many people are suffering from malnutrition and diabetes, and too many people feel disenfranchised because economic power is concentrated in the hands of a few, does it really matter whether the optimal rate of inflation is 2 per cent or 4 per cent?







Ms. Stantcheva argued that economists are well equipped to create systems to better distribute food, and that behavioural economics surely could figure out the incentives to encourage people to eat better and avoid illnesses such as diabetes. Same goes for optimal – in other words, fair – rates of taxation.

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This kind of work is being done, but not to a large enough degree. The world needs more Stefanie Stantchevas. There is reason for optimism: Almost 40 per cent of the young researchers at Lindau are women.

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