In continued celebration of International Women’s Day 2021 and Women’s History Month, I am starting a weekly series for ‘Women in Economics’ to share the achievements of pioneering female economists from across the globe.
There has been increasing awareness of the gender gap among economists over the past few years. I won’t drown you in statistics, but in short women make up less than a third of Economics undergrads and less than a fifth of full professors in Economics. These stats haven’t changed in over 20 years, and this narrative is the same for the UK, USA, and many other countries. Thus, now, more than ever, we should be promoting diversity.
Starting conversations and increasing awareness of current female economists’ achievements is the first step. In high school, I started a campaign for ‘Women in Economics’ as an Economics Society initiative, where I worked with my amazing team to give various talks and workshops to over 350 girls. I’m delighted to say that my campaign doubled the uptake of A-Level Economics in my high school the following academic year. This shows how conversations and a simple introduction to the subject can increase female participation. I hope this blog series can serve a similar purpose.
An inspiring academic I would like to introduce to you today is Dr Zainab Usman.
Dr Zainab Usman is an accomplished Nigerian Economist who has done research in the fields of economic development, digital revolution, energy sector, and public policy, focusing on developing and emerging economies. She achieved her undergraduate degree in International Relations at Ahmadu Bello University Zaria and later graduated from the University of Oxford with a PhD in International Development. She has taken several research and advisory roles assisting governments in East Africa and Central Asia, working to reduce poverty, boost prosperity and ensure sustainable resource management. Zainab is now a Senior Fellow and Director of the African Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington D.C.
Whilst she was a Public Sector Specialist in the Office of the Africa Chief Economist at the World Bank, Zainab co-authored and edited the widely read publication: ‘The Future of Work in Africa: Harnessing the Potential of Digital Technologies for All’. This work is a segment of the World Bank’s Africa Development Forum Series. Her work on social sustainability and public policy can be mapped from her time at the World Bank to her contributions at the Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford and beyond.
Zainab has published various research papers and articles, including within the academic journal African Affairs where she recently published a study on Nigeria’s economic transition. Broadly, over the years, her extensive research analyses opportunities and risks that various global trends, including the digital revolution and Covid-19, bring to African labour markets. She also discusses policy solutions to grasp productive opportunities for the continent’s workforce as well as social safety nets. Her recent article voices concern of global inequality of Covid-19 vaccine distribution. The lag in vaccine supply to Africa due to geopolitics could be detrimental for future growth; Zainab suggests next steps to mitigate this. Her recommendations include increasing investment in African R&D, as well as pharma production, and ensuring timely and affordable access to the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine due to its feasible storage and transportation characteristics.
Furthermore, her forthcoming book “Economic Diversification in Nigeria: Fractious Politics and an Economy Beyond Oil” will be published by Bloomsbury in January 2022, so definitely keep an eye out for it!
All-in-all, Zainab is truly an outstanding role model. I will continue this series every week, to keep the conversation going. I will need your help – so, please watch this space, share this post, and continue cheering for female achievement. Thank you.