Gita Gopinath, The First Woman Chief Economist Of IMF

Business APAC
5 min readAug 6, 2020
Gita Gopinath

Recently, Gita Gopinath completed a year as the Chief Economist at the International Monetary Fund (IMF). IMF is a leading international body working in the field of global finance and economy. Gita succeeded Maurice Obstfeld, who retired by the end of 2018. Her accomplishments have been remarkable throughout the journey. The IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde coined her as one of the world’s outstanding economists with impeccable academic credentials, a proven track record of intellectual leadership and extensive international experience.

Initially, Gita’s family wanted her to pursue a career in medical whereas, Gita wanted to opt for civil services. With decade challenge trending everywhere, it seems Gita Gopinath just won the challenge from entering the decade as a Professor and ending it by becoming the Chief Economist of IMF.

Gita Gopinath’s Journey from Delhi School of Economics to IMF

Being amongst one of the top economists globally, people are always curious about Gita Gopinath’s education. Gita was not so bright with her studies earlier. She was athletic but did call it quits later to focus on her studies. “Sport is a tricky affair. Unless you are number one in India, you are a nobody! But if you come first or second in university, you could be somebody big,” said Gita. Later due to her efforts and hard work, this percent ratio raised.

At Mahajana PU College, Mysuru, Gita was pursuing Science and later shifted her course to BA in economics because she believed her grades were not enough for engineering and medical. For a short time, Gita was interested in learning guitar and also participated in a fashion show, but gave it all up for focusing on studies. She was selected at the Lady Shri Ram College for Women (LSR), Delhi, which ranks as the best college for economics in India. Gita soon became popular as she bagged a gold medal for ranking number one in the Delhi University beating St Stephen for the first time.

Gita belonged to a middle-class family so money had been her priority for a long time. Thus, after completing her BA, she gave up her IAS dreams as it had ‘little money’ and joined the Delhi School of Economics, which started her journey towards IMF.

Gita Gopinath’s Journey from Delhi School of Economics to IMF

Being amongst one of the top economists globally, people are always curious about Gita Gopinath’s education. Gita was not so bright with her studies earlier. She was athletic but did call it quits later to focus on her studies. “Sport is a tricky affair. Unless you are number one in India, you are a nobody! But if you come first or second in university, you could be somebody big,” said Gita. Later due to her efforts and hard work, this percent ratio raised.

At Mahajana PU College, Mysuru, Gita was pursuing Science and later shifted her course to BA in economics because she believed her grades were not enough for engineering and medical. For a short time, Gita was interested in learning guitar and also participated in a fashion show, but gave it all up for focusing on studies. She was selected at the Lady Shri Ram College for Women (LSR), Delhi, which ranks as the best college for economics in India. Gita soon became popular as she bagged a gold medal for ranking number one in the Delhi University beating St Stephen for the first time.

Gita belonged to a middle-class family so money had been her priority for a long time. Thus, after completing her BA, she gave up her IAS dreams as it had ‘little money’ and joined the Delhi School of Economics, which started her journey towards IMF.

Why did she stay back in the US?

In 2001, Gita joined the University of Washington, Seattle for a fully funded 5 year Ph.D. program. Her University professor believed that she deserved to study at a top school. He gave Gita letters of recommendation to three schools, including Harvard and Princeton, as she was the best student the university had in 20 years. He also wrote to the university senate to convene her MA, even though she did not meet the requirements. She was an exceptional student and that is why even after completing her Ph.D. she was asked to stay back in the US. Gita Gopinath was guided by renowned economists like Kenneth Rogoff and former Federal Reserve ChairmanBen Bernanke at Princeton. She joined the University of Chicago in 2001 as the assistant professor.

Prior to becoming the chief economist, Gita was a visiting scholar at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston and an advisory member at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. She also had assignments with the National Bureau of Economic Research. From 2016–18, she was the Economic Adviser to the Chief Minister of Kerala state in India. She also served as a member of the Eminent Persons Advisory Group on G-20 Matters for India’s Ministry of Finance.

Gita Gopinath’s Supportive Family

Gita Gopinath’s family has been supportive throughout her career and believed in her every decision. Her father T.V. Gopinath is a farmer and entrepreneur and her mother V.C. Vijayalakshmi ran a very popular playhouse for 35 years. According to Gita Gopinath’s wiki page, her father is related to the late A. K. Gopalan. Her parents have a residence in Mysuru, which is always jam-packed, with visitors and well-wishers. Gita Gopinath’s husband, Iqbal Dhaliwal, is currently the executive director at Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab at the Department of Economics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Gita and Iqbal met while she was pursuing Masters’ in Delhi School of Economics. Iqbal too has been a topper, in 1995, he topped the civil services examinations. He served as the IAS officer of the Tamil Nadu cadre for five years before quitting his job and moving to the US for pursuing a degree in public affairs at Princeton.

Whilst in college Iqbal and Gita used to travel by the same bus and later, he chased her up to Princeton. Gita’s mentors wanted her to stay back in the US after her Ph.D., however, Gita insisted that she wanted to go back because her husband was in India. Thus, they offered Iqbal a scholarship in public affairs at Princeton.

An award Winning Young Economist

Gita’s research on International Finance and Macroeconomics have been published in many top economics journals. Apart from this, she has authored various research articles on exchange rates, trade and investment, international financial crises, monetary policy, debt, and emerging market crises. Gita was the co-editor of the American Economic Review and managing editor of the Review of Economic Studies. Currently, she is the co-editor of the current Handbook of International Economics.

Gita Gopinath is also an elected fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the Econometric Society, and recipient of the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the University of Washington. Last year, the Foreign Policy named her one of the Top Global Thinkers, in 2014, she was named one of the top 25 economists under 45 by the IMF and in 2011 she was elected as the Young Global Leader (YGL) by the World Economic Forum. The Indian government awarded her the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman, the highest honor conferred on overseas Indians.

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