Esther Duflo has become both the youngest person and just the second woman ever to win the Nobel Prize for Economics in its fifty year history, and declared she hopes to inspire more women into the field.
Duflo shares the prize with her husband Abhijit Banerjee, and Michael Kremer, who is a professor at Harvard University.
"Showing that it is possible for a woman to succeed and be recognised for success I hope is going to inspire many, many other women to continue working and many other men to give them the respect they deserve."
– Esther Duflo at today's press conference announcing her prize. pic.twitter.com/vTVBus80Hv
— The Nobel Prize (@NobelPrize) October 14, 2019
The 46-year-old Duflo, who is a French American economist, and the two other economists won the prize for their contributions to alleviating poverty and a lack of education around the globe.
Both Duflo and her husband teach at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston. The Washington Post described an experiment conducted by Duflo and Banerjee that involved comparing changes in child immunization rates in several Indian villages and implementing ways increasing the number of immunised children.
“In some villages, the researchers offered families a bag of lentils and a set of metal plates to encourage them to immunize their children. Children in those villages were more than six times as likely to be immunized,” the Post reported.
Speaking with reporters after the announcement of their win, Duflo said her pioneering experimental techniques implemented in developing countries can be used “in rich countries” for people “who also have difficult lives.”
“We have to do much deeper work to understand the lives of the less fortunate in our societies in the face of all the disruption they face,” she said.
The first woman to win the prize for Economics was Elinor Ostrom, in 2009.
Duflo’s win follows reports highlighting the ’dismal record’ of the lack of women in economics. Earlier this year, the Chicago Booth Review revealed that just 14 percent of professors in Economics departments in the U.S are filled by women. Last week, Lisa D. Book and Anna Gifty Opoku-Agyeman wrote a devastating Op Ed in The New York Times, uncovering the overt sexism many women of colour experience in the economics field.
“Too few women are studying and teaching economics,” Duflo said during her press conference, “because the adversarial environment among academic economics deters them. Women sometimes also aren’t aware how diverse the field is.”
“There are not many Nobel Prizes that have gone to people who mainly work on social problems,” she said. “I hope I can be a role model for others to say look, actually it’s pretty interesting. This field is more varied than you think.”
Duflo added that she hopes to inspire other women.
“Showing that it is possible for a woman to succeed and be recognised for success I hope is going to inspire many, many other women to continue working and many other men to give them the respect that they deserve like every single human being.”
Peter Fredriksson, Chairman of the Nobel Committee for Economic Sciences, told reporters that Duflo’s achievement demonstrates the growing presence of women in economics.
Duflo remarked, “We are at a time when we are starting to realise in the profession that the way that we (treat) each other privately and publicly is not conducive all the time for a very good environment for women.”
The Nobel Prize was established in 1969 by the Swedish central bank and has six different categories, including medicine, physics, chemistry, literature and peace.
The economics prize is worth $US915,300, roughly AU$ 1.35 million.