Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Vive Christine Lagarde

I have argued in several previous posts that society could profit handsomely by having a larger percentage of women in top economic posts. My argument has not been based on the demand often made, of equality between women and men. On the contrary, it is based on the biological inequality between the two sexes which, I think, is sometimes in women’s advantage and ultimately works to the advantage of society at large. In economic matters, the general tendency of women to be risk aversive and to plan for the future is a great asset when compared to the risky behaviour of men who seek instant gratification. Had there been more women in top economic posts, we may not have had the recent economic recession or not have had it with the same severity.

Now, France’s articulate and elegant Christine Lagarde, the first women minister of finance in a major industrial country, has echoed my words. Let me say at once that she has not referred to me; indeed I would be amazed if she knows of my existence. But she speaks from the same biological book as I do. In The Independent of yesterday, she is reported as having said that “the 2008 financial collapse was, at least in part… driven by the aggressive, greedy, testosterone-fuelled mood of male-dominated, hi-tech trading rooms”. In other words, the testosterone concentration inequality between men and women had ultimately worked to the disadvantage of the world economic system. I couldn’t agree more.

She added, "In gender-dominated environments, men have a tendency to... show how hairy chested they are, compared with the man who's sitting next to them. I honestly think that there should never be too much testosterone in one room." Right on the spot – due to biological inequality again!

There have been many studies on decision-making in the field of neuroeconomics. I wonder how many have factored in differences between men and women in such matters, or have designed experiments specifically to address that question. This surely would be worth doing.

Meanwhile, in Germany the head of the Deutsche Bank, who is described by the bank’s spokesman as being a “gentleman from the old school”, expressed the hope that economic boards “will be prettier and more colourful one day” when more women hold top economic posts [Deutsche Bank apparently has no women on its board].

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