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Two women now lead the IMF: Who is Gita Gopinath?

·4-min read
A side-by-side composite image of Kristalina Georgieva and Gita Gopinath.
Kristalina Georgieva (l) is the IMF's managing director and Gita Gopinath will soon join her as deputy. (Source: Getty)

For the first time in history, two women are in the top two leadership positions at the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

On 1 October 2019, Bulgarian economist Kristalina Georgieva was appointed managing director of the IMF, replacing Christine Lagarde who was the first woman to be appointed head of the IMF back in 2011.

And now joining Georgieva as deputy sometime early next year is Gita Gopinath, who has been serving as the chief economist of the IMF since 2019.

Gopinath will succeed Geoffrey Okamoto after his term as first deputy managing director.

Gopinath's appointment as deputy managing director, which was announced in the first week of December, 2021, will make it the first time in history that two women lead the the IMF, an organisation of 190 countries collaborating to promote global monetary cooperation.

A close-up image of Gita Gopinath looking past the camera.
Gita Gopinath has been serving as the IMF's chief economist since 2019. (Source: Getty)

Who is Gita Gopinath?

As well as her role as chief economist, Gopinath is director of the IMF's research department. Prior to her latest appointment, the 50-year-old was scheduled to leave the IMF in January 2022 to return to her academic position at Harvard University.

Born on 8 December, 1971 in Kolkata, India in a Malayali family, Gopinath spent her early years in Mysuru, Karnataka. Her father heads a farmers' collective and her mother ran a playhouse for 35 years.

According to her father, Gita can speak multiple Indian languages. She loved athletics as a child and learnt the guitar for a while before entirely shifting her focus towards academia. In her father's words: "Gita was an average student until class 7 but, thereafter, started performing exceptionally well in school."

Gopinath attended school in Mysore, India and received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Lady Shri Ram College for Women in Delhi in 1992. She also earned a masters degree in economics from Delhi School of Economics in 1994. 

She is a US national and an overseas citizen of India.

Gopinath is married to Iqbal Singh Dhaliwal, the global executive director at Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab at the Department of Economics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The couple have a son, Rohil.

Gita Gopinath speaks at an IMF press conference, flanked by two men.
Gita Gopinath was also a member of the economic advisory panel of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. (Source: Reuters)

In 1996, she obtained her second master's degree in economics at the University of Washington. In 2001, Gopinath earned a PhD in economics in the field of international macroeconomics and trade at Princeton University. 

Following her PhD, she joined the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business as an assistant professor.

Noteworthy achievements

Gopinath is a highly acclaimed economist whose research, which focuses on international finance and macroeconomics, has been published in top economics journals worldwide.

She has also authored many research articles on exchange rates, trade and investment, international financial crises, monetary policy, debt, and emerging market crises. 

Among other things, she is the co-editor of the current Handbook of International Economics and was earlier the co-editor of the American Economic Review and managing editor of the Review of Economic Studies. 

Gopinath has served as the co-director of the International Finance and Macroeconomics program at the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER). 

She is an elected fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the Econometric Society, and a member of the Group of Thirty. 

She was also a member of the economic advisory panel of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and a visiting scholar at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. 

The IMF named her one of the ‘top 25 economists under 45’ in 2014 and Time Magazine named her among ‘Women who Broke Major Barriers to Become Firsts'.

IMF’s managing director, Kristalina Georgieva, has expressed great faith in Gopinath's work thus far.

"Her contribution to the Fund’s work has already been exceptional, especially her intellectual leadership in helping the global economy and the Fund to navigate the twists and turns of the worst economic crisis of our lives.”

In turn, Gopinath expressed gratitude saying: “As the pandemic continues its grip on us, the work of the Fund has never been more critical and international cooperation never more important.

"I am very thankful to Kristalina and the Board for this opportunity, and so look forward to collaborating closely with all the incredibly brilliant and committed colleagues at the Fund, working with whom has been an absolute privilege.”

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