WILBERFORCE — Dr. Loretta J. Mester, president and chief executive officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, delivered a pragmatic, yet visionary message at Central State University focused on the necessity of inclusiveness in economics.
“I like to think of economics as a social science that helps us think about how people use scarce resources,” Mester said during her keynote address April 4 at the L.E.E.D. Conference, hosted by the college of business.
L.E.E.D.,(Leaders, Executives, Entrepreneurs and Directors) is a two-day annual event focused on providing a networking opportunity for business majors to share substantive practical knowledge in planning, teamwork and decision-making.
Mester’s speech was filled with facts, figures and statistics. But she also shared anecdotes from her own life with more than 250 students, business leaders and industry attendees.
She said she “lucked” into the field through the recommendation from two Princeton professors who thought she could use her math degree to gain a leg-up in the Ph.D. program at Princeton University.
“It has provided me with a fascinating career, and I hope that at least in a small way I’ve been able to provide some good in return through economic research and policy-making,” Mester said.
“Economics has many real-world applications,” she said. “It can help us understand the issues facing people in or entering the workforce and provide evidence on which programs are most effective at helping them finance their education, develop new skills, and manage the changing job landscape driven by technological innovation.”
Mester was emphatic in her message that a more diverse Federal Reserve makes better policy.
“I have seen first-hand how having a diversity of views expressed and discussed around the table can actually lead to better policy decisions, and there is actual research to back this up,” she said.
When a more diverse group is at the table making policy it helps avoid “group-think,” According to Mester.
Today only about a third of women are choosing to major in economics as compared to their male counterparts, while the rate for minorities is about half that of white students, she said. But not only is the field of economics missing out on the diversity of thought, ideas and solutions, but minority students are losing out on a degree that provides lucrative career opportunities immediately upon graduation.
One recent study found that those with a bachelor’s degree in economics earn about 20 percent more than graduates with degrees in other fields. Some of the salary differences reflect the fact that economics majors have access to a wide variety of occupations, many of which are higher-paying.
Dr. Fidelis Ikem, dean of the college of business, understands the opportunities for students studying economics. The college is working to develop a concentration in agricultural economics to meet the increasing demands for this field in Ohio.
“We think this program will go hand-in-hand with our agribusiness program,” Ikem said. “Our students love challenges and this will be a great challenge and complement to their business degree.”