Larry has been a true advocate for women throughout his career. In 1992, as Chief Economist of the World Bank, Larry argued in front of the world's Finance Ministers that the highest return investment they could make in their economies was to educate their girls. Through his work, girls' education became a focus for development experts and a topic not just in education ministries, but in financial ministries worldwide.
I first met Larry when I was a junior at Harvard. A friend and I were forming a new student organization, Women in Economics and Government, to encourage women to major in these subjects. We told all of our professors of our efforts and of all of them, the one who helped us the most was Larry. He served as our champion and helped rally the support of his fellow professors behind our efforts. The following year, when I wanted to write my senior thesis on the economics of spousal abuse, Larry volunteered to be my advisor because he recognized the importance of the issue.
I went on to work for him both at the World Bank and at Treasury. At the World Bank, he was a tireless advocate for girls' education. At Treasury, he fought for social security benefits for women working in their homes, better enforcement of child support obligations, and an expansion of child care tax credits. And through all of these years, he was a supportive and deeply caring mentor for me and many other women who had the opportunity to work for him.
Larry has been attacked by some in the women's community for remarks he made about women's abilities. As he has acknowledged himself, this speech was a real mistake. What few seem to note is that it is remarkable that he was giving the speech in the first place - that he cared enough about women's careers and their trajectory in the fields of math and science to proactively analyze the issues and talk about what was going wrong. To conclude that he communicated poorly -- and even insensitively -- is fair. To conclude that he is opposed to progress for women overlooks the fact that improving this progress was precisely the subject he was addressing.
Many people note that our nation has few economists with his intelligence. They should also know that we have few leaders, if any, in the financial world who have done more for women.
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