Gita Gopinath: From scoring 45% in Class 7 to becoming IMF No 2

By | Written by Meenakshi Ray, New Delhi
Dec 03, 2021 12:40 PM IST

Gita Gopinath was born in December 1971 in West Bengal’s Kolkata and grew up in Mysuru in Karnataka.

Gita Gopinath will take over as the first deputy managing director of the International Monetary Fund from January next year replacing Geoffrey Okamoto. Gita Gopinath has served as the IMF's chief economist—the first woman to hold the post in IMF’s history— for three years.

Gita Gopinath was interested in sports, learned the guitar and also participated in a fashion show. (AFP File Photo)
Gita Gopinath was interested in sports, learned the guitar and also participated in a fashion show. (AFP File Photo)

Kristalina Georgieva, IMF's managing director said Gopinath’s contribution to the institution'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."

"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," Gopinath said.

Born in December 1971 in West Bengal’s Kolkata, Gita Gopinath grew up in Mysuru in Karnataka. According to her father TV Gopinath, Gita was interested in sports, learned the guitar and also participated in a fashion show, but she gave it all up to focus on studies.

Also read | In surprise move, IMF chief economist Gita Gopinath to take top leadership role

“The girl who used to score 45 per cent till class seven, started scoring 90 per cent. I never asked my kids to study and had not put any restrictions on them. Their friends came home, stayed over to study and play. Till SSLC, both my girls used to go to bed by 7.30pm and wake up early,” Gopinath said in an interview to The Week in 2018.

“After school, Gita joined Mahajana PU college in Mysuru, and pursued science. Later, though her marks were good enough for engineering and medicine, she decided to do a BA (Hons) in economics,” he added. 

Gita chose economics to pursue a career in the civil services, joined Lady Shri Ram College for Women (LSR) in Delhi and topped all three years, according to her father. She gave up her intention to join the civil services and “wanted to do an MBA as it fetched good money.” “She topped Delhi University and created quite a flutter by bagging the gold medal as LSR had beaten St Stephen’s for the first time, and by just two marks,” TV Gopinath said.

Also read | IMF warns of 'economic collapse' unless G20 extends debt relief

According to The Week, Gopinath was the head of Raita Mitra, a farmers’ collective and her mother, VC Vijayalakshmi ran a very popular playhouse for 35 years. They are from Kerala

After she graduated, Gita Gopinath joined the Delhi School of Economics where she met her husband Iqbal Singh Dhaliwal. She joined the University of Washington in Seattle for a fully-funded PhD programme of five years and received her PhD in economics from Princeton University in 2001.

She was an assistant professor of economics at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. Gita Gopinath joined the faculty of Harvard University in 2005 and is on leave of public service from its economics department where she is the John Zwaanstra Professor of International Studies and of Economics.

Also read | IMF applauds India’s net zero 2070 pledge

She was the economic adviser to Kerala chief minister from 2016-18 and has also served as a member of the Eminent Persons Advisory Group on G-20 Matters for the Union finance ministry.

She was named as one of the 25 Most Influential Women of the Year by the Financial Times in 2021. In 2019, 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 chosen a Young Global Leader (YGL) by the World Economic Forum.

She has also been awarded the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman, the highest honour conferred on overseas Indians, by the Indian government. 

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