By Andrea Shalal
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Women now hold many of the jobs controlling the world’s largest economy – and they’re trying to fix it.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and trade czar Katherine Tai hold top jobs in U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration and many of his economic advisers also are women, as are nearly 48% of his confirmed cabinet-level officials.
This sea change may already be affecting economic policy – a new $2.3 trillion spending plan introduced by Biden last week includes $400 billion to fund the “care economy,” supporting home- and community-based jobs taking care of kids and seniors, work normally done by women that has mostly gone unacknowledged in years past.
The plan also has hundreds of billions of dollars more to fix racial and rural-urban inequalities that were created in part by past economic, trade and labor policies.
Yellen says the focus on “human infrastructure,” and the earlier $1.9 trillion rescue bill should result in significant improvements for women, whose share of the workforce had hit 40-year lows even before the crisis, and for everyone else as well.
“In the end, it might be that this bill makes 80 years of history: it begins to fix the structural problems that have plagued our economy for the past four decades,” she wrote on Twitter, adding, “This is just the start for us.”
Women leaders can bring fresh perspective to economic policy, experts say.
“When you’re different from the rest of the group, you often see things differently,” said Rebecca Henderson, a professor at Harvard Business School and author of “Reimagining Capitalism in a World on Fire.”
“You tend to be more open to different solutions,” she said, and that is what the situation demands. “We’re in a moment of enormous crisis. We need new ways of thinking.”
Over the past half-century, 57 women have been president or prime minister of their countries, but institutions that make economic decisions have largely been controlled by men until recently.
Outside the United States, there’s Christine Lagarde at the helm of the European Central Bank with its 2.4 trillion euro balance sheet, Kristalina Georgieva at the International Monetary Fund with its $1 trillion in lending power, and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala at the World Trade Organization – all jobs held by men a decade ago.
Overall, there are women running finance ministries in 16 countries, and 14 of the world’s central banks, according to an annual report prepared by OMFIF, a think tank for central banking and economic policy.
The limited measures available suggest women have a better track record of managing complicated institutions through crisis.
“When women are involved, the evidence is very clear: communities are better, economies are better, the world is better,” Georgieva said in January, citing research compiled by the IMF and other institutions.
“Women make great leaders because we show empathy and speak up for the most vulnerable people. Women are decisive … and women can be more willing to find a compromise.”
A study by the American Psychological Association showed that U.S. states with female governors had fewer COVID-19 deaths than those led by men, and Harvard Business Review reported that women got significantly better ratings in 360-degree assessments of 60,000 leaders between March to June 2020.
Women account for less than 2% of CEOs at financial institutions and less than 20% of executive board members, but the institutions they do run show greater financial resilience and stability, IMF research shows.
Eric LeCompte, a UN adviser and executive director of a non-profit that advocates for debt relief, said he noticed a clear difference during a meeting with Yellen and the leaders of Christian and Jewish faith groups last month.
“I’ve been meeting with Treasury secretaries for 20 years, and their talking points have been entirely different,” he said. “In every area we discussed, Yellen put an emphasis on empathy, and the impact of policies on vulnerable communities.”
Her male predecessors had a “brass tacks” approach that focused first on “numbers not people” and never mentioned words like “vulnerable,” he said.
THE GLOBAL SHE-SESSION
The stakes are high.
The global recession related to the coronavirus pandemic is actually a “she-session,” many economists say, because of how hard it has hit women.
Women comprise 39% of the global workforce but account for 54% of overall job losses, McKinsey found in a recent study. In the United States, women accounted for more than half the 10 million jobs lost during the COVID-10 crisis https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-women-jobs/pushed-out-by-pandemic-women-struggle-to-regain-footing-in-u-s-job-market-idUSKBN2AW19Y, and over 2 million women have left the labor force altogether.
Bringing these women back to work could boost gross domestic product by 5% in the United States, 9% in Japan, 12% in the United Arab Emirates and an astounding 27% in India, the world’s largest democracy, the IMF estimates.
The rise of female leaders should lead to “a more inclusive – in the true sense of the word – response to the many, many challenges that are the legacy of COVID,” Carmen Reinhart, the World Bank’s chief economist, told Reuters.
Tai, the first woman of color to lead the U.S. Trade Representative’s office, has told her staff to think “outside the box”, embrace diversity and talk to communities long ignored.
Okonjo-Iweala, also the first African to head the World Trade Organization, which oversaw trade flows of nearly $19 trillion in 2019, said addressing the needs of women will mark an important step toward rebuilding deeply eroded faith in government and global institutions.
“The lesson for us is (to) make sure … that we don’t sink into business as usual,” said Okonjo-Iweala, who was also Nigeria’s first female finance minister. “It’s about people. It’s about inclusivity. It’s about decent work for ordinary people,” she told Reuters.
(This story has been refiled to add dropped word in first paragraph)
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Additional reporting by Karin Strohecker; Editing by Heather Timmons and Andrea Ricci)
CANADA STOCKS – TSX ends flat at 19,228.03
* The Toronto Stock Exchange’s TSX falls 0.00 percent to 19,228.03
* Leading the index were Corus Entertainment Inc <CJRb.TO>, up 7.0%, Methanex Corp, up 6.4%, and Canaccord Genuity Group Inc, higher by 5.5%.
* Lagging shares were Denison Mines Corp, down 7.0%, Trillium Therapeutics Inc, down 7.0%, and Nexgen Energy Ltd, lower by 5.7%.
* On the TSX 93 issues rose and 128 fell as a 0.7-to-1 ratio favored decliners. There were 26 new highs and no new lows, with total volume of 183.7 million shares.
* The most heavily traded shares by volume were Toronto-dominion Bank, Nutrien Ltd and Organigram Holdings Inc.
* The TSX’s energy group fell 1.61 points, or 1.4%, while the financials sector climbed 0.67 points, or 0.2%.
* West Texas Intermediate crude futures fell 0.44%, or $0.26, to $59.34 a barrel. Brent crude fell 0.24%, or $0.15, to $63.05 [O/R]
* The TSX is up 10.3% for the year.
Canadian dollar outshines G10 peers, boosted by jobs surge
By Fergal Smith
TORONTO (Reuters) – The Canadian dollar advanced against its broadly stronger U.S. counterpart on Friday as data showing the economy added far more jobs than expected in March offset lower oil prices, with the loonie also gaining for the week.
Canada added 303,100 jobs in March, triple analyst expectations, driven by the recovery across sectors hit by shutdowns in December and January to curb the new coronavirus.
“The Canadian economy keeps beating expectations,” said Michael Goshko, corporate risk manager at Western Union Business Solutions. “It seems like the economy is adapting to these closures and restrictions.”
Stronger-than-expected economic growth could pull forward the timing of the first interest rate hike by the Bank of Canada, Goshko said.
The central bank has signaled that its benchmark rate will stay at a record low of 0.25% until 2023. It is due to update its economic forecasts on April 21, when some analysts expect it to cut bond purchases.
The Canadian dollar was trading 0.3% higher at 1.2530 to the greenback, or 79.81 U.S. cents, the biggest gain among G10 currencies. For the week, it was also up 0.3%.
Still, speculators have cut their bullish bets on the Canadian dollar to the lowest since December, data from the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission showed. As of April 6, net long positions had fallen to 2,690 contracts from 6,518 in the prior week.
The price of oil, one of Canada‘s major exports, was pressured by rising supplies from major producers. U.S. crude prices settled 0.5% lower at $59.32 a barrel, while the U.S. dollar gained ground against a basket of major currencies, supported by higher U.S. Treasury yields.
Canadian government bond yields also climbed and the curve steepened, with the 10-year up 4.1 basis points at 1.502%.
(Reporting by Fergal Smith; Editing by Andrea Ricci)
Canadian dollar rebounds from one-week low ahead of jobs data
By Fergal Smith
TORONTO (Reuters) -The Canadian dollar strengthened against its U.S. counterpart on Thursday, recovering from a one-week low the day before, as the level of oil prices bolstered the medium-term outlook for the currency and ahead of domestic jobs data on Friday.
The Canadian dollar was trading 0.4% higher at 1.2560 to the greenback, or 79.62 U.S. cents. On Wednesday, it touched its weakest intraday level since March 31 at 1.2634.
“We have seen partial retracement from the decline over the last couple of days,” said Greg Anderson, global head of foreign exchange strategy at BMO Capital Markets.
“With oil prices where they are – let’s call WCS still at roughly $49 a barrel – I still think CAD has room to strengthen over the medium term and even over a one-week horizon.”
Western Canadian Select (WCS), the heavy blend of oil that Canada produces, trades at a discount to the U.S. benchmark. U.S. crude futures settled 0.3% lower at $59.60 a barrel, but were up nearly 80% since last November.
The S&P 500 closed at a record high as Treasury yields fell following softer-than-anticipated labor market data, while the U.S. dollar fell to a two-week low against a basket of major currencies.
Canada‘s employment report for March, due on Friday, could offer clues on the Bank of Canada‘s policy outlook. The central bank has become more upbeat about prospects for economic growth, while some strategists expect it to cut bond purchases at its next interest rate announcement on April 21.
On a more cautious note for the economy, Ontario, Canada‘s most populous province, initiated a four-week stay-at-home order as it battles a third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Canadian government bond yields were lower across a flatter curve in sympathy with U.S. Treasuries. The 10-year fell 3.3 basis points to 1.469%.
(Reporting by Fergal Smith;Editing by Alison Williams and Jonathan Oatis)