Meet Harvard professor Gita Gopinath, the first woman Chief Economist at IMF

Meet Harvard professor Gita Gopinath, the first woman Chief Economist at IMF

Gopinath, who hails from Kerala's Kannur district, grew up in Mysore and went on to study at LSR and Delhi School of Economics.

Gita Gopinath Gita Gopinath

The appointment of India-born Gita Gopinath as IMF Chief Economist has inspired scores of Indians. Gopinath is the first woman to be appointed as head of IMF's research department, which publishes one of the world's most-anticipated document - World Economic Outlook. She is also the second Indian after former RBI governor Raghuram Rajan to hold the position.

Gopinath, who hails from Kerala's Kannur district, grew up in Mysore and went on to study at Delhi's Lady Shri Ram College for Women (LSR). She later studied at the Delhi School of Economics where she met her future husband Iqbal Singh Dhaliwal.

"When you're growing up in India, everybody expects you to become a doctor or an engineer and not exactly an economist" Gopinath had earlier told The Harvard Gazette in an interview. At Delhi University, Gopinath chose economics to prepare for IAS. However, she later discovered that she had 'absolutely zero administrative skills'. "I was more of a geek, and better with my books than anything else," she had said.

While her future husband topped the IAS exam in 1996, Gopinath, who had opted for further studies in the US, finished her second Masters degree in Economics from University of Washington. In 2001, She completed her Ph.D. in Economics from Princeton University, where economist Ken Rogoff and former chair of the US Federal Reserve Ben Bernanke were among her mentors. Gopinath's specialisation is in international macroeconomics and trade.

After the studies got over, Gopinath began working as Assistant Professor of Economics at University of Chicago's Graduate School of Business. She then moved to Harvard where she is currently the John Zwaanstra Professor of International Studies and of Economics. Gopinath is the third woman and the first Indian after Nobel laureate Amartya Sen to become a tenured professor at Harvard's Department of Economics.

While she was appointed as Financial Advisor to Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in 2016, Gopinath had earlier served as a member of the Eminent Persons Advisory Group on G-20 Matters for India's Ministry of Finance.  

An advocate neo-liberal economics, her selection as advisor to Kerala CM created quite a stir as many members of Communist Party of India (Marxist) opposed her views.

In 2014, she was named one of the top 25 economists under 45 by the IMF and was chosen as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2011.

Gita is also the co-director of the International Finance and Macroeconomics program at the National Bureau of Economic Research. She is also a visiting scholar at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston and a member of the economic advisory panel of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Besides, she is the co-editor of American Economic Review. In 2018, she was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Gopinath has published papers on exchange rates, world currencies, sovereign debt, among others.

The 46-year-old was born to TV Gopinath, a farmer and entrepreneur, and VC Vijayalakshmi. Her husband, Iqbal Dhaliwal, is the executive director at Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab at Department of Economics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.