Look at the irony several highly qualified and competent women are working in the banking sector. Quite a few of them have staffed and managed the affairs at the RBI headquarters – efficiently too but not one woman has ever been appointed Governor in the eighty-year-old history of RBI.
The issue is relevant not just in India but worldwide. Why do so many women pursue higher studies in economics and finance if it is not going to lead them anywhere?
Women may occupy top political jobs. Angela Merkel was re-elected as German Chancellor thrice; Margaret Thatcher was elected PM in Britain three times; even France had a female prime minister. Six OECD countries had female finance ministers. Four are in office today. But no woman is close to leading the central banks in any of these countries.
Even though Norway a self-proclaimed champion of gender equality, managed to elect Erna Solberg as its first female prime minister, it has not been able to accept a woman heading the central bank or sovereign wealth fund.
Janet Yellen, Chairman of US Federal Reserve Bank
Significantly when Janet Yellen was appointed Chief of FED in USA, there were people who said that she was made chief because of President Obama favorable attitude towards women. Others said that Janet Yellen was made FED Chief because Lawrence H. Summers withdrew his name from consideration, and none of the other male counterparts was as experienced. Hence, there was no alternate. It only reinforces the general belief that woman do not stand a chance – either way.
Jenet Yellen is right when she calls the male-dominated central banking industry as the last gentleman’s club.
Yellen was the first to break the glass ceiling. Until her, no G-7 country had a woman heading its central bank.
Till Janet Yellen, USA despite being the home to the top universities offering advanced degrees to women in economics never had a female head of a central bank or a female Treasury secretary.
Thirty-one of the 34 OECD countries never had a female in the central bank top job apart from Austria, Finland, and Poland – all of whom retired in 1993. Since 2002, there is none.
Today though 17 out of 193 countries — Malaysia, Russia, Argentina, South Africa, Lesotho, and Botswana – have women heads of the central bank, they are just exceptions.
Men occupy all 23 Governing Council posts in the European Central Bank’s (ECB). Only three women have adorned the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee. A single woman made it to Bank of Japan’s Policy Board.
It took 68-year before a woman made it to the deputy governor’s office in the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) which traditionally has one governor and three to four deputy governors. K. J. Ubesi, Shyama Gopinath and Usha Thorat were the only Reserve Bank cadre officers to reach closest to the top. The Deputy Governor’s post was the highest that they could climb.
K. J. Ubesi became the first female Deputy Governor of the Reserve Bank, followed by Shyama Gopinath (second) and Usha Thorat (third).
Ubesi, Gopinath, and Thorat were only through-bred in-house RBI officers who managed to bypass the hierarchical obstacle.
KJ Udeshi, who joined RBI in 1965 and handled exchange control, internal administration, and human resources departments rose to be its Executive Director in 2001. A post-graduate in Economics, she was co-chairperson on sub-group on banking and finance and left her mark in forex management.
A master degree in commerce Shyamala Gopinath joined RBI in 1972 and worked in various capacities including deputation to IMF before taking over as Executive Director and later deputy governor RBI. She is now Chairperson Advisory Board on Bank, Commercial and Financial Fraud—a set up for probing the bank, commercial and financial frauds after retirement.
Similarly Usha Thorat, an alumnus of Lady Shri Ram College for Women and Delhi School of Economics was one of the key players behind RBI efforts towards financial Inclusion, banking regulation, and currency management.
If women are not competent then how come two women were simultaneously working as Deputy Governors, not too long ago?
But the question is why don’t women don’t deserve or are allowed beyond a certain level in the RBI hierarchy? Is it a reflection of male chauvinistic attitude prevalent in RBI where women are always required to play the second fiddle? Is woman incapable of running the RBI and meeting the daunting challenges of the economy policy of the country?