10 female Keynesian economists + 10 male Keynesian economists = 20 Keynesian economists

On becoming governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney made some statements about women which were somewhat intriguing. He argued that: ‘It is anomalous, it’s striking. What we have to do at the Bank of England is grow top female economists all the way through the ranks. That adds to the diversity in macro-economic thinking…’

Why? If we replace (for example) ten male economists with ten female economists in a group of 30 economists, what leads Carney to expect more diversity in macro-economic thinking? Surely, there can only be two reasons – that Carney believes that there are intrinsic differences between the ways in which men and women reason and assess evidence or that their social experiences are different from those of men who have similar career patterns. This is essentially the reasoning that contributed to Larry Summers resigning from Harvard University as well as him not getting the job as Obama’s Treasury Secretary. I wonder why Osborne and Cameron are not hauling Carney in for a dressing down.

It is worth noting that I am quite comfortable with the idea that the sexes are complementary and that, in any business, social or family situation, they may (on average) bring different characteristics to the table. However, if Carney holds this position, there are some interesting conclusions because, if it is accepted that women (on average) might exhibit certain skills in greater preponderance than men, then the opposite may have to be accepted too. But, let’s move on…

Does Mark Carney have any real evidence that women bring diversity in macro-economic thinking? I doubt it. If one were to list the women economists who have been on the MPC or might plausibly be approached or who are talented economists in their own right, then the list would include: Kate Barker, Rachel Lomax, DeAnne Julius, Marian Bell, Diane Choyleva, Diane Coyle, Stephanie Flanders and Vicky Pryce. It is difficult to think of a group of people whose macro-economic views sit more firmly within the new Keynesian/neo-classical mainstream than this group. The same would be true if we looked at the views of the most cited female economists in the US. This implies no disrespect to these people. These eight, plus Mark Carney would make a Monetary Policy Committee every bit as highly qualified as the current MPC – but it would not think differently (and I would agree with them no more than I agree with the current MPC).

There is an obvious exception amongst the ranks of top female economics commentators; somebody who does start from different premises: Gillian Tett of the Financial Times. However, Gillian Tett would almost take the suggestion that she is an economist as an insult. She would respond immediately by commenting that her insights about the financial crash come from her background as an anthropologist. But, there are male counterparts who work in the same space as Gillian Tett studying the behaviour of people in the context of networks (Paul Ormerod, Daniel Kahneman and, at one time of course, F. A. Hayek). Again, this is to take nothing away from Gillian Tett, but it is the fact that she is an anthropologist that ensures that her views add diversity, not the fact that she is a woman.

Of course, if adding a group of women to a group of men adds diversity to the thinking of the group as Carney suggests (implicitly assuming that women think differently from men or have different social experiences), it does not follow that adding those women who choose to become economists to a group of male economists adds to the diversity of thinking of the group of economists. It may be the case that economists have a tendency to think the same way whether male or female and that those women who ‘add diversity’ in intellectual life do not choose to become economists. This would mean that women contribute to diversity in society but not necessarily to diversity amongst economists.

Economics teaches people to reason logically from a set of assumptions and to produce evidence to back up models. I am not sure what Mark Carney’s assumptions are. I am quite sure that he has no evidence for the proposition – which went entirely unchallenged – that more female economists would lead to more diversity in macro-economic thinking.

Indeed, if Mark Carney really wanted some diversity in the Bank of England, he could look for some Austrians, some free bankers, some monetarists or some experimental economists. I am sure that the IEA could find Mark Carney some people who would add diversity if he thinks there is a bit too much group think in the Bank of England.

Academic and Research Director, IEA

Philip Booth is Senior Academic Fellow at the Institute of Economic Affairs. He is also Director of the Vinson Centre and Professor of Economics at the University of Buckingham and Professor of Finance, Public Policy and Ethics at St. Mary’s University, Twickenham. He also holds the position of (interim) Director of Catholic Mission at St. Mary’s having previously been Director of Research and Public Engagement and Dean of the Faculty of Education, Humanities and Social Sciences. From 2002-2016, Philip was Academic and Research Director (previously, Editorial and Programme Director) at the IEA. From 2002-2015 he was Professor of Insurance and Risk Management at Cass Business School. He is a Senior Research Fellow in the Centre for Federal Studies at the University of Kent and Adjunct Professor in the School of Law, University of Notre Dame, Australia. Previously, Philip Booth worked for the Bank of England as an adviser on financial stability issues and he was also Associate Dean of Cass Business School and held various other academic positions at City University. He has written widely, including a number of books, on investment, finance, social insurance and pensions as well as on the relationship between Catholic social teaching and economics. He is Deputy Editor of Economic Affairs. Philip is a Fellow of the Royal Statistical Society, a Fellow of the Institute of Actuaries and an honorary member of the Society of Actuaries of Poland. He has previously worked in the investment department of Axa Equity and Law and was been involved in a number of projects to help develop actuarial professions and actuarial, finance and investment professional teaching programmes in Central and Eastern Europe. Philip has a BA in Economics from the University of Durham and a PhD from City University.

12 thoughts on “10 female Keynesian economists + 10 male Keynesian economists = 20 Keynesian economists”

  1. Posted 16/08/2013 at 13:03 | Permalink


    You’re correct, but why would Mark Carney consider an Austrian economist in the bank of England? Don’t they tend to be sceptical about the value, and ability to make the right decisions, of central banks and bankers?

    Not many people would employ someone who thought that their ‘boss’ and the organisation he works for do more harm than good.

  2. Posted 16/08/2013 at 14:17 | Permalink

    Philip, thank you for this article. The Bank of England is keen on feminist-inspired social engineering initiatives, as we revealed over a year ago:


    It was only too predictable that the BoE would succumb to the idiotic feminist campaign to retain the image of a woman (other than the Queen) on our banknotes.

    The idea that increasing the proportion of women in the senior ranks of an organisation will improve performance is just the latest left-wing economic theory to crash and burn:


    Yet the belief that more diversity will deliver improved performance is the ruling paradigm of the political, banking, and business classes. The CBI has been pursuing this direction for years, and so far as I can tell, FTSE100 companies have done precisely nothing to fight the government’s drive to appoint more women onto boards.

    I invite anyone who wishes to work with us to campaign against the government’s (and business sector’s) dangerous policy direction to contact me at [email protected]. Thank you.

    Mike Buchanan


  3. Posted 16/08/2013 at 15:02 | Permalink

    @hj – yes, that is probably true: it would be the ultimate in diversity. In fact, there are a few Austrians kicking around central banks and possibly even in the Bank of England, but not on the MPC

  4. Posted 16/08/2013 at 17:35 | Permalink

    Excellent article.

  5. Posted 16/08/2013 at 17:47 | Permalink

    Mr Carney is merely following the feminist narrative enthusiastically driven by David Cameron that somehow having more women on boards will improve performance despite a huge amount of fact based evidence to suggest the opposite. Whenever evidence is asked for from government, the CBI or FTSE 100 CEO’s to substantiate the argument that having more women on boards improves performance it is never forthcoming simply because there is none other than opinions masquerading as facts which begs the question why is a conservative government supporting a strategy that merely panders to feminist myths and not fact. If it were accurate that women were superior to men in running businesses as is suggested the FTSE 100 would be staffed entirely by women at all levels but particularly at board level because people like me as shareholders would demand it but I do not live in a fantasy world and do not base my investment decisions on theory or distortions of the truth or lies.

  6. Posted 18/08/2013 at 08:20 | Permalink

    Thank you for an interesting article. For me this is part of a wider debate about fair and inclusive employment and the difficulties of positive discrimination. For discrimination to be reduced we have to show that appointment to any position is made solely on the experience, abilities and merit of the appointee, regardless of gender (or age, race, physical ability, etc). Where quotas for employment of specific groups exist, based on an imperfect understanding of an ‘average’ person in that group, we have already undermined the principal of fair employment. This erodes our confidence in the appointment process and the appointee. Of course this requires that everyone has access to equivalent educational and work opportunities and that all appoinments are made in a fair and unbiased way, which to me seems the better target for our aims.

  7. Posted 18/08/2013 at 11:14 | Permalink

    I found this page whilst vainly searching the IEA site for the HS2 report, and frankly I’m reminded of Julia Gillard’s speech regarding misogynists and mirrors. Readers may wish to view the following link for the counter view:




    And not only do I agree with Mark Carney’s approach, but would also point out that everything so eloquently said in the Mail today about the HS2 was also said about the Eurostar. And who would be without that now?

  8. Posted 18/08/2013 at 11:22 | Permalink

    Elizabeth, thank you. You say, ‘For discrimination to be reduced…’. This is suggestive of the glass ceiling’ which I hold to be a delusion (as the title of one of my books, ‘The Glass Ceiling Delusion’, might suggest). I started working in the business sector in 1979 – the year Mrs Thatcher became prime minister – and in a 30+ year career, much of it as a senior level in major companies and in management consultancy, the only discrimination I saw towards women was positive discrimination. Unfortunately this resulted on more than a few occasions in women being promoted well above their abilities, usually by their own admission in the end. I would of course agree with equality of opportunities, but we shouldn’t necessarily expect this to lead to equalities of outcomes, as individuals in different cohorts of people may make different choices with respect to the world of work (as elsewhere). With respect to men and women, this plays out differently in the public and private sectors, to an extent. In the public sector almost two-thirds of employees are women, yet bizarrely – but fully in line with public policy directions generally – employers can use ‘positive action’, a conveniently undefined term which means (illegal) positive discrimination in practise, to preference women over men in recruiting and promoting. As far as the private sector’s concerned, surely the best people to decide who to recruit and promote must be the incumbent executives? Anything else is an attack on a cornerstone of capitalism. And returning to the gender question, it’s been known for some years that while four in seven British men are ‘work-centred’ just one in seven British women is – Dr Catherine Hakims ‘Preference Theory (2000) – http://c4mb.wordpress.com/2012/07/19/dr-catherine-hakims-preference-theory/. All else being equal, this alone would lead us to expect a 80% – 20% male/female balance at the top of major businesses, for example. But all else is NOT equal. If we add in the fact that almost two-thirds of private sector employees are men, and men have traditionally and considerably outnumbered women in the professions most likely to lead to board positions (notably Finance) we’d expect men to hold well over 90% of FTSE100 board positions. They currently hold about 83%, and the figure is declining year-on-year due to government threats of gender quotas, suggesting women are already substantially OVER-represented on FTSE100 boards. Almost all these women are NEDs, itself indicative of the enormous and persistent gender merit gap in the senior reaches of major companies, which in turn lends real world’ support for Preference Theory.

  9. Posted 18/08/2013 at 13:28 | Permalink

    Elizabeth , Both men and women have had equal access to equivalent educational and work opportunities for decades and for many years appointments have been made at all levels including the board on competency based assessments and psychometric testing which is fair and unbiased in the main.

    Because that has not worked out for the feminists as they wanted they are simply not interested in fair or merit based appointments and their view is that senior management at all levels must now be made on the basis of special treatment for women at the expense of men. If the feminist agenda is allowed it means simply that the worst qualified and experienced female will get the job over the best male merely because she is female.

    This would be a recipe for disaster for our young men, share prices, profits , ROCE, pension funds and reputation.

  10. Posted 18/08/2013 at 18:51 | Permalink

    Chris Clark: “And not only do I agree with Mark Carney’s approach, but would also point out that everything so eloquently said in the Mail today about the HS2 was also said about the Eurostar.” I presume you mean Eurotunnel (Eurostar is just one of the services – the passenger train – that runs through it)? May I remind you that Eurotunnel was privately financed and built? If HS2 can find private funding, then I for one have no objection to it.

  11. Posted 18/08/2013 at 19:02 | Permalink

    @ Chris Clark The idea that increased gender diversity should, could, or would lead to improved business performance is nothing more than a left-wing economic theory which has proved groundless (see last link in this comment). In the past 18 months we’ve asked hundreds of individuals and dozens of organisations which support the drive for ‘more women on boards’ to provide evidence of improved performance following increased gender diversity on boards, and NOTHING has ever been forthcoming (sometimes they seek to present evidence of correlation as evidence of causation, showing a poor grasp of statistical theory). The fantasy has however proved a very lucrative one for many individuals and organisations and remains one to this day – for professional service firms, academics, social psychologists, management consultancies etc. Knowing what I’d find in advance, with a heavy heart I opened the first of your links, the Reed Smith report. It contains much of the same nonsense almost all such reports contain, and cites studies which report correlation – the reader is left to imply causation (the original studies themselves invariably state correlation isn’t evidence of causation). One example is a reference to a Catalyst study. Catalyst is an American feminist campaigning organisation seeking to drive up the proportion of women on boards. Does even Catalyst maintain there’s a causal link between driving up the number of women on boards, and improved financial performance? For an answer to that question I refer you to a statement made to a House of Lords inquiry in 2012 by Professor Susan Vinnicombe of Cranfield International Centre for Women Leaders (she founded it in 1999). She’s probably the best-known academic proponent for more women on boards in the world. This is what she had to say http://c4mb.wordpress.com/2012/07/20/a-remarkable-statement-by-a-leading-proponent-of-improved-gender-diversity-in-the-boardroom/. How many times do we have to say this? NOT ONE LONGITUDINAL STUDY FROM ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD HAS EVER LENT EMPIRICAL SUPPORT TO THE IDEA THAT INCREASING FEMALE REPRESENTATION ON CORPORATE BOARDS CAN BE EXPECTED TO LEAD TO FINANCIAL PERFORMANCE IMPROVEMENT. FIVE LONGITUDINAL STUDIES SHOW THAT INCREASING FEMALE REPRESENTATION ON CORPORATE BOARDS CAN BE EXPECTED TO LEAD TO FINANCIAL PERFORMANCE DECLINE – our briefing paper on the matter http://c4mb.wordpress.com/improving-gender-diversity-on-boards-leads-to-a-decline-in-corporate-performance-the-evidence Mike Buchanan [email protected] CAMPAIGN FOR MERIT IN BUSINESS http://c4mb.wordpress.com

  12. Posted 18/08/2013 at 19:04 | Permalink

    @Chris – the HS2 paper is released tomorrow. I may have misunderstood your remarks about the blog post but I don’t understand why you assume that it is misogynistic (if that is what you are saying).

    1. It may be true that Carney is correct that women would add diversity of thinking (I say in my blog post that I accept that complementarity of the sexes position). If that is the case then Summers should not have been vilified (by feminists). If women bring something to the table (on average) that men don’t, then the reverse is also likely to be true. That was my first point.

    2. However, it does not follow that those women who choose to become economists add that diversity and my list indicates that.

    3. Diversity is not obviously added by adding the best UK female economists to the MPC but would be added by appointing people who think about the economy differently (e.g. free bankers, Austrians) and such people may or may not be women.

    Carney is trying to have it both ways whilst stating something as true without the slightest evidence. It is not misogynistic to point that out. If it is misogynistic to point out the flaws in the arguments of powerful males in our financial system who state things without any obvious justification then I think that people are being over sensitive. The biggest contribution of any of the female MPC members is probably DeAnne Julius reviving the Wiskellian concept of the natural rate of interest. Indeed, it would be good if somebody revived that in the bank today. However, it is not a concept that is likely to be promoted by people just because they are female.

    Your third post is interesting. What would happen if women were (on average) better at everything than men (including, say, parenting)? They would presumably follow their comparative advantage. They may be relatively better at things other than leading businesses or taking monetary policy decisions even if they are absolutely better (on average) at every possible role in society.

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