Welcome to episode 1 of "How did I get here? Discover Economics"
In this episode, we have Dame Rachel Griffith. Rachel is a Professor of Economics at Manchester University, Research Director of the Institute of Fiscal Studies and Past President of the Royal Economics Society.
What are you going to be when you grow up? A doctor, an astronaut, an engineer, a footballer?
Very few people have ever dreamt that one day they would be an economist. It’s a profession on few young people’s radars, is barely understood and, let’s face it, has an image problem.
Most people picture economists, if they think about them at all, as “men in suits who are crunching numbers, talking about interest rates and making money”.
This series of podcasts aim to challenge – and change – your image of economists. A series of conversations with economists who are working in a variety of different organisations, the podcasts will explore their personal journeys. What inspired them to choose to study economics? How did they get to their current position? What are they currently working on and what are some of the things that they love about economics?
In this episode, we have Dr. Rachel Griffith, professor of economics at Manchester University Research Director of the Institute of Fiscal Studies, and past president of the Royal economic society. Hi, Rachel. It's lovely to meet you. And I'm looking forward to learning exactly how you got here. So before we talk about where here is, tell me about your background, what was it like growing up in Ithaca, New York? Hi, Jennifer. Thanks a lot. And thanks for talking to me. So I was born in Africa, my dad was at Cornell University, the first in his family to go to university. But as we move when I was quite young, so it took about like, we're growing up in general, up to maybe about the age of seven. I'm the youngest of four kids. So it was a quite loud, chaotic house, if you like. But one in which we were all from a very young age, really encouraged to express opinions. Talk about what was happening in the day, my parents were politically very active. And I think that actually was really formative. For me growing up in a household where being the youngest, I always had to fight for my position, but was always always respected. And what I said and what I thought about the world, wow, I can relate to that. I'm the youngest as well, not a four. Thankfully, there was only the two of us, but the idea of having to make your voice heard, really stays with you. I think now it's well documented or talks about, I suppose that you dropped out of high school. So what I my first instinct when I heard thought, because I had a very, um, my parents were very pro education. And I know what their response was going to be. So when I read that, my first question was, well, what did your parents think about it? What was that conversation like? And, and what what was that, like amongst your peer group? You know, what? Were you the only one? Yeah, so I was pretty much the only one. So there's two different ways of interpreting what my parents did. Either. They were amazingly progressive and foresight for and took it all very calmly, because they understood that it was a phase I was going through, and we're confident in my ability to get through it. Or, I was the fourth kid, they had my daughter, my sister, my older sister was born when they were 18. So they were very young. And they were perhaps just ready not to be parents anymore. That'd be get on with my life. And so, you know, actually, it was not that big of a deal. I think for them, it must have been, but they never let it influence me. They were very supportive of whatever I wanted to do, by myself learned after spending a year being a waitress, that that was just going to be tedious and boring. And so I went back and got my graduate equivalency degree. But I have to give all the credit in the world to my parents for and my brothers and sisters for being incredibly supportive. You know, for me to pursue what I wanted to do. Wow. I mean, yeah, because that's the thing. It's kind of giving you the freedom to go out and see what that decision means in real life. And then, and then taking the consequences. And then the next steps as you like, it's interesting, you say about which thing, I've waitress from the age of like, 14, which thing on and off in bar work. And I first moved to London, even though I started working at The Guardian, I got a part time job in a pub for extra money, and you know, to meet people, and I say to people know, that, number one, I'm always very keen to interview young people who I you know, interview for different job roles that have waitress or done bar work, because there's definitely some sort of grit and like problem solving. And if you can stick that out, like, there's a lot you can bring into any workplace, and I think, but also something that I think is you never realise at the time because I totally relate to what you said about you know, it's like, this isn't for me. It's there is something satisfying about getting to the end of your waitressing shift or your bar work shift. And it doesn't matter how terrible it was. It's over. And you can tidy up and set up for the next day. And there's something very satisfying about that. I think that we don't get in other jobs unfortunately. But we interesting to see to hear from you on how you how that maybe not very long experience that had that part of that gap between school and going back into education. What How do you feel about it now looking back and what? Let's say you didn't have the supportive parents that you did? Yeah, just how do you feel about that being in that position? And and was it you know, did did you find it easy to then just switch and come back and go right, well, I do need to do my GED. And that's what I'm gonna do. Like, how did you feel in that time? Yeah, so it wasn't it was a long transition. So I waitress for about 15 years. Actually, when I say I went back to school, I paid for myself. And I mean, it kind of taught me a little bit. But mostly, I paid for myself doing that and only really came back to academia after about 15 years, full time I went and got a degree but then I carried on working in various taxi was a cleaner for a year, I did all sorts of jobs, I think it gives you I think it was a great experience when I look back on it now. And in fact, I think that for friends who have teenage kids, I really encourage them to take a year out at least before going to city, I think it gives you some kind of grit, it gives you some kind of appreciation of how completely privileged I am to have the job that I currently have. Because I get to choose what I do. And I get to work with exciting people and, you know, having to get up and do a job that maybe you don't love every minute, I didn't mind waitressing. But you know, it's not the most fulfilling job in the world pays, said, you know, it's done, and you pay the bills. But it's good, I think, to have had that to have gone through that experience and worked hard like that. And again, to go back to my upbringing, I think that was something my parents really ingrained in all of the kids, they came from my father, in particular, very working class background in Texas, they both want Texas, my mother was sort of more a little bit better off by any means rich, but they really from a very young age, ingrained in us the work ethic of if you were in a privileged enough position, to be able to, to work and earn a living and help other people out that that's what you should be doing. They were very involved in politics, and the father was a freedom rider in the civil rights movement. And my mother was very involved in anti Vietnam War activities. And it wasn't so much the politics of that, but it was the hard work of that they just spent all the effort working to try and make the world a better place. And I think that's something I really got growing up from them, you know, and being curious about the world and interested in what was going on and you don't need I did I quit school because it was kind of boring. Looking back at it, maybe I was a bit too smart for it. And it was not challenging enough. I'm not sure if that's true, or if that was just a phase I was going through. But because very lucky because the household I grew up in that. I think I've got that debating ability and the ability to think critically and argue and work hard to fight my corner. older brothers for that, you know, made it not so high, we said How hard was it to go back into education, it wasn't that hard, because that's what it's like arguing with my older brothers. And it was, in a way, something I was quite comfortable doing. Amazing, George, I mean, there's so many follow up questions to just that part of your story. I mean, how amazing to have grown up with parents who were so involved. And what's interesting to me is I can really see that in the work that you've done in your research, and then in the kind of, you know, in your interviews, and we'll get onto that because yeah, I said in the beginning, we were just chatting beforehand that there's so much of your work I'm personally really interested in. But I think that that's something that would, I bet that something that a lot of young people today can really relate to you, because there's so much going on that, you know, we're trying to change, and people are trying to improve and even in lockdown when obviously it's very, very difficult and you know, well COVID pandemic is happening, it's very, very difficult. I one of the things I value about see social media has been able to follow activists, and what they do. And it's so interesting seeing people who've been activists for a very long time, and how much actual work it is, you know, it's not just tweeting, it's actually getting up and doing things and organising. And part of that, you know, your parents trying to influence the world to make it a better place, I can really see that in some of the policy areas that you focused on. So I'm going to jump in a little head a little bit to some of the questions. So I'll pull myself back in. But we will loop back round to that, because I could definitely see how all of your influences have shaped where you've gotten to now. And I just wonder about maybe teenagers who are listening to this, or parents who are listening to this and looking at their kids and thinking, you know, what, what would be good for their children to get involved in? And where could they use their passions to really influence the world in a positive way? And it seems to me as I said in the beginning, I'm not I'm not an economist, I don't I don't have a background in that area. But it's not the number one thing that people might jump to, to see Do you know what you should look into my child is you should look into economics is not the first thing that jumps out. So I suppose there My question is what what motivated you to pick economics what started you on that particular journey into taking all of that Background and all of that passion and interest in the world. And channelling into economic Well, I only became an economist a bit later on. So it's in my 30s. Actually, prior to that, to when I went back to university actually went to be a journalist first. And then did my first degree was in political science. And then I worked for a while in the private sector, and came back into a more academic setting. Again, kind of because I was more interested in that in trying to do something that had more social meaning to it, if you like, I think there's a couple things I'd reflect on from what you just said. So one is, I think you can think too hard about it at 16, who knows what you want to do at 16, I certainly didn't identify a 16 year old, I wanted to be a dancer 16 know what they want to do, I still don't know what I want to grow up. And I'm, you know, nearly 60. So I think that worrying too much about what you want to do, ultimately, when you grow up is detrimental to actually going ahead. I think if you talk to most successful people, very few of them, there are exceptions, but most of them are not when I was 16, I knew I wanted to be this, I sound great, you know, musicians or something, maybe were like that, but I had no idea what I wanted to do. 100% The other thing, I always say to people, my personal philosophy, I think the other thing, if you want to make the world a better place, it can be very exhausting, very hard, because it's quite hard to change things. And we should be very ambitious and aim for the most aspirational thing we can. That is particularly true social media. People look like they're doing all this great stuff. But, you know, behind the scenes, they're having desperate moments where they feel rubbish about what they've done. And they feel like they're a failure, and they haven't things haven't gone, right. Everyone has not been successful, maybe don't talk about that as much as they should. And it's not that we should wallow in self pity, but just recognise that it's if you want to make the world a better place, that's a good thing to start just being kind to people and respectful of your next door neighbour and help the old lady cross the road and be you know, just be nice. Absolutely do good and goodwill calm, like sort of quite firm. It's that it's the starfish story, isn't it? It's that one of you know, throwing all the starfish back into the sea. And it's like, why are you doing that you can never do all of them. It's never gonna make a difference. Well, it made a difference to that one. And that is such a cliched story. But I think about it all the time. No. And I think I personally sit there with a friend of mine who's a professor who was feeling exhausted and said to me once, that I gave her the best piece of advice that she'd ever had. And I did very inadvertently, which is like, how do you just key How do you do so much, I was like, you just get up in the morning and do what's in front of you. And it's not everything, but it's something again, you know, do what you can feel good about. And I think again, I think I really got that from my parents if they were incredibly passionate about, you know, they lived in America and this, they lived in the south of America in the 50s. And 60s, at a time when it was really horrible. Racism was terrible. And you know, the people were terrible to each other. And they just lived a good life. And I think, you know, the whole thing of the Freedom Riders was that of just go and sit in cafes in the seats, white college students going and sitting in the seats that were reserved for black people because and they could get arrested. So my father got arrested for doing that. And he's a because he could deal with being arrested in the consequences, who with for him weren't nearly so bad as for the black people protesting. So somebody with a really simple thing, but it was enormously powerful and changing social norms and changing the way that the world is. It's off sometimes there's just quite little steps. Yeah, we can achieve quite a lot. Absolutely. And the thing about that, as well as I think about my own parents, and something simple, I often think back on is that so I was born in 1980. And I've got an older sister, and my dad left school at 14 and a half, I think to start an apprenticeship. My dad was a mechanic, he retired. My dad was always home for dinner. And, and he was very hands on with us. Now, I don't know how much of that was that he didn't have a choice because he had me for a daughter. And he might have been embarrassed about some leedy things, but he didn't really get choice. And so he was quite progressive in his own way, within his kind of, you know, background and upbringing. And I'm very grateful for that. And I often tease him that he's the first feminist I ever met, although he would never ever refer to him. But because he never made us feel like we couldn't do something just because we weren't girls that just wouldn't have occurred to him. And, and I love what you said there because although obviously what your parents are doing, or what your parents were doing is incredibly powerful and impactful. And that's such a big difference but you're right it's we do our own little things with the little corner that we've got. And something my my parents always made us feel like we could change the world. Like I said education was most important thing, which is why I immediately was like What on earth did our parents say about leaving secondary school? But because my mum always said it was the gift that no one could take away from you. So it didn't matter what else happened, she always said to us, I'm not paying for your wedding, but I'll pay for your education, three will God University, and at that time and in Scotland still now you know, it's less, it's less expensive than it is now. So I love what you say there. And I'm hoping that people listening to this can really feel like you know, if you look at your own parents or your own community around you and look at the things that each person is doing, that does make a positive difference, whether it's to their tiny part of the world, or a really big part of the world. And again, all of this stuff, as we're talking about, it really makes me think of the work that you've done in your career and, and some of the research that you've done. So I'm going to skip actually a little bit ahead so that I can I can ask you more about that. Because think it is really fascinating. And I love how, like you said, maybe not planned, but how these things kind of pulled together. Now, which one of my questions should I jump into? Okay, I'll dive straight into this one. So your work often touches upon the impact of public policy on upward mobility? I'd say. So, even looking at your work on nutrition as well, I feel like that, too, is kind of heavily related to access to better food choices, and how that actually, you know, impact social mobility as well. What what is it that excites you about these areas? And I suppose we've talked about a little bit already, but what is it that excites you about studying those areas here. So I would just, I would phrase that a slightly differently and say much about upward mobility, but it's about giving people choices, to move to be mobile where they want to be, I think we focus too much on upward mobility, not everyone wants always to move up in the income ladder, or the whatever, you know, that are you thinking of. But I think everyone wants a better life, and to have a choice for the life that they want to have. And so I think that's really what I see the power of economics trying to do is and and I think that, economists, that's not how economists are perceived by most of the public. But actually, there's quite a lot of economists that that's what they think about is how can we make government policy and let markets work in ways that enable people to make good decisions to live the life that they would like to lead? For many people that will be getting a better job, great, that's great, if that's where their aspirations are, but if your aspirations are to, you know, stay at home and raise a family great, should enable you to do that too. And, you know, whatever it is you want to do. So So how did I get into that? You know, honestly, I don't have a story for it. I just, it was what interested me, it's a combination of what I personally liked doing, which is playing on the computer with large data sets in a very goofy nerdy way. But also engaging with thinking about how people behave, and how we can, you know, where, where there's room for policy, to operate. Better, to, to give people better opportunities. Yeah. I think that choices thing is really key, isn't it? I know, especially looking at your nutrition, your work on nutrition in thinking about, like things like food deserts in the US and that kind of stuff. And, and, you know, since Brexit has happened, and touchwood, we're not, you know, there's nothing too bad yet. That's probably our podcast for another day. You know, that is something that kind of started to be mentioned, as you know, lots of people, if you didn't live in those areas, you wouldn't know that it was a thing necessarily. And I suppose being an economist means that you can bring those kind of micro stories, and use the data that represents those kind of smaller stories that aren't necessarily headline grabbing, but pull it into, like through your research and through the outcomes and see recommendations of your research, you can bring it to influence policy to help people who are in those positions. Is that exactly fair. This is me just thinking about that's exactly fair. And in particular, what I'm interested in is take the foods desert example. That's a really tricky one. Because it's definitely the case that if you go to lower income, more deprived areas, and you go to stores, you see less healthy food in those stores. But is that because of the way that the stores are operating? Or is that because the people who live in those areas, don't buy the healthy food? If it's there, you know, so is it driven by supply or demand we say in economics, and that makes policy really tricky in the area. So trying to kind of what my expertise is in is trying to really understand what's driving that combination of what firms are doing and what people are doing, and how can they go And then try and make that interaction more constructive for everyone. It's not like firms are trying to get people to eat rubbish food all the time. I mean, sometimes they are advertising. You know, it's not that they're never trying to do that. But how do we understand the way the market is so much more going on? Yeah. And it's not feasible for the government really to decide what we all need. That's not something that government wants to do wherever you go, it's not feasible for it to decide that for everyone. So we need to people need to be making good choices for themselves. And so how do we enable that? How do we, you know, to where Are things going wrong? Why are people making what look like decisions that they themselves later regret? Not so much that I might paternalistically think is a bad decision, but that they themselves may later wish they hadn't taken? So how can we empower people to be making better decisions about food, or about jobs that they take or training that they take, or, you know, all sorts of things? I love that because I feel like there's, you know, there. Again, I don't think it's necessarily a social media problem, I think it's been a mass media problem for a while that everyone wants simple solutions, or simple policy solutions and simple headlines. And I've often said that, you know, I think education is one of the areas that gets pulled along with every election, you know, there are promises made and changes made, when actually would be the benefit to leave things for a little while, let teachers do their job, etc, etc. And I suppose it's what, as an economist, and, you know, you're not just talking about influencing necessarily UK or us. But you know, the whole of Europe or different parts of the world that you can get involved in conversations about policy that is so much further than what's going on in a particular election and what the rhetoric is, but it was it gives you an opportunity to look at all of the things influenced that because I know growing up, and even among kind of working classes, there are certain people who are like, well, so and so can afford to smoke. So they can't be that hard up. And you know, there's all of those kind of little things and little messages that we give each other about the decisions other people are making, and how it's so much more complicated than that, like, yeah, they might smoke, but maybe it's just because that's the only happy thing they get to do that day. And do you grudge that and it's, or it might just be that, you know, they've decided they want to smoke anyway, or it's addictive. And, again, so many different layers to this decision making. And as someone who's a bit of a data freak myself, I do appreciate that you take these questions and sit in front of big giant datasets, and then try and analyse them. I personally find it fascinating. But also, I think it's as someone who like I did an English degree, so I, you know, don't have a background in science and mathematics beyond what I did at secondary school, where I was really interested in it. And I, again, I agree with you about people making decisions too early on, but I suppose something that let's see discover economics, as a campaign is trying to do is just kind of plant the seed that it's an option. Because I feel like, you know, like you say, people change their minds and move in lots of different directions. And you might not do economics as an undergraduate, you might go into it later, and having done other things, but always knowing that it's a possibility, and why you might want it to be a possibility, why that might be a good thing for you to want to do is really important. So So what would you say to young people when they're thinking maybe not making their life career decision choices? But what would you say to them, you know, when they're sitting thinking about the subjects that they enjoy. For me, economics does a really good job of connecting storytelling and numbers, and data. And those two things to me need to go hand in hand all the time. You know, your statistics and data are only as good as the real life story that they tell. And I suppose there's tonnes and tonnes of students who were maybe like me, who saw that storytelling side, but didn't quite understand that actually, there's a lot of things in maths and science and economics that also helps you to do that. So how would you talk to students now about that kind of thing without forcing them to make a 20 year career decision necessarily? No, no, definitely. No. Well, you just said a lot of great things. So first of all, I'd say that for someone with it does the English or history degree, English degree of English English, you have a very good economics mind your description of issues to do with smoking were spot on there. Actually. I've talked to many policymakers who understood that much less well than you. And just to just before I answer your question, to go back to see my face, I'm a little pink and excited by that. Thank you very much. To go before I answer your question, to go back to something else you said, which was that people may be looking for simple answers. I think that's right. I agree with you that we probably blame that on social media more than maybe it's true but it it ties. It ties up something you just everything we were talking about before that The way that I live with it, it's a constant frustration, that policymakers and actually many people just want a simple answer. What should? How should we tax Oda? I don't want to know the details, I just want the answer, you know. And so going back to the I take the steps I can, I can't change the world. And we really, I think, the probably the most important place for us to spend more money as an education system. I could spend all my time talking about that, you know, you take one step at a time, and we'll move there gradually. So I just live with that myself. But I'm down to your question. So how what, how would I talk to young people to think about economics. So one of the there's a couple of things, you said that economics at its heart does marry up for the theory, and with data and maths, but the data and maths can really come later, I didn't know maths, actually, until much later, Intel I started my master's degree, I have had no math. So math is a good return. If you like, if you like math, that's great. And I am athletes very useful in economics, it's not that it's not, but that you don't have to have that. It's logic much more. So logic is related to math, of course, that is quite a distinct thing. You don't have to have the ability to solve all the mathematical equations, you need to have a logical mind. You know, ultimately, economics is really about trying to think about cause and effect. What, what we want to identify is that, you know, just just poverty, cause you see that people who are poor, unhealthy, there's a correlation there. But is it that poverty causes people to be unhealthy? Or is it being unhealthy causes people to be poor? that's constantly the kind of questions that economists are trying to deal with. And that's ultimately about logic. Now, mathematics is an useful tool to help us write computer algorithms and solve models. But it's not really the core of what economics is at all. And in fact, what I do is I work with people who are much better mathematicians with me, and they do the fancy maths, and I do the logic bit. But I mean, I do have some maths, I'm slightly downplaying my mathematical skills. But it's, I don't think that people need to see that that's the be all and end all. I think if you're interested in having learning a set of tools to enable you to say, well, should we spend more education? Or should we spend more on the healthcare system? Right now the problem the government's facing, you know, when does it that kids go back into school? versus how much do we protect people, older people? You know, that's, there's economics and that there's, of course, many other disciplines in that too. But ultimately, the economic question about what are the costs to those young people for missing education? How do you think that question through logically, that's ultimately what economics is about? It's not about just solving some mathematical equations, mathematical equations help you do that. But it's really about thinking through people's behaviour and the choices that they want to make? And what are our aspirations as a society? And how do we try and help people repeat those aspirations? Wow, I also that reminds me of my year of doing philosophy at university as well, like all the different you know, you're you're looking at things like stoicism and utilitarianism, and all that kind of stuff. It really is about the philosophy of it as well, isn't it? It's not just the, the numbers like you say, economics came from philosophy. I mean, if you look at many economics professorships, they came out of philosophy, departments, philosophy, political science, maths, there's all kind of mixed up. But you can be a very good economist and be specialising and one of those more than the other. There's something else just to reflect on what you said, again, link the link with policy, it's really important to remember that as economist, you know, it's not my job to say what policy should be we elect officials whose job is to decide where policy is. So as an economist, what I learned, and the reason I like studying economics, is a set of tools to help people make those decisions. And that's, you know, my role is to try and help them logically think through if you do a what's going to happen if you do B, what's going to happen? Not to say what should happen, but to think through those Yeah, think through logically. That's how you might answer those questions. It's going through the choices again, isn't it? Sorry, can you hear my puppy barking in the background? He stopped that. Okay, I can carry on. Unfortunately, he just doesn't understand that we're recording a podcast. I'm sure he has good things to say about this as well. Yeah. He's, yeah, he likes to see them in the middle of the night lesson. So that actually leads me back to something I was when I was doing my research by talking to you. I loved what you said in your UBS interview for a woman and economics where you talk about the importance of curiosity driven research. And one of the things that because I guess lecture at Redditch University in their PR course, talk about digital marketing. And I used to do further education and you know, kind of work based learning for kind of young people coming out of say GCSE level or a level, going into the workplace. And I used to talk to them all about, the best thing you can do is just be really curious, like, be really curious about how everything works. And it's something I say to my niece and nephew all the time. And I say to anyone, and it doesn't matter whether they're not sure about what they want to do next. But if you just keep asking questions, they keep asking questions, you don't have to know the answers. But be asked the questions keep being curious. And and, you know, the answers are often not what you think, because I know you find out with one of your particular areas of research, you know, the calories in declining calories in that particular part of the the nutritional research he did. And, and I feel like that's something that, you know, like you, you got a lot of your kind of grit and experience from your parents and something I get from my dad. And along with ADHD, I think it's something else I think I got from him, although he doesn't admit that he has it. And so that that curiosity driven research, I think that's something that a lot of students can relate to, because it's quite difficult. I think, when you're that age, I remember being that age and having just no understanding of, you know, what is it actually like to be a doctor, a lawyer work in an office work in the oil industry work in this industry, that industry, you don't actually know what any of it is really like, until you get out and start doing things? So how, how do you think? How do you think schools and parents, I suppose can kind of encourage that type of curiosity? From a young age? Because I think that it doesn't matter what discipline you go into. If you've got that you're basically flying, aren't you? I couldn't agree more? That's a great question. So and it's not just research? I mean, I think that would be my answer in life to everything. Just be curious. And you'll go for 100%. Yes, the most frustrated, so I teach to very large classes of second year undergraduates. And the thing I find, I love teaching, I love seeing kids learning react, the thing that I find most frustrating is when they're afraid to fail. So they're afraid to admit that they don't understand something. And I think that things that we, I think one of the things that we perhaps teach this least well, especially now is is exactly that, just you know, it's okay to fail. I mean, it's good ask questions that you don't know the answer to it. I always tell PhD students this, you're basically if you're smart, you're gonna learn, you're just gonna feel more stupid for the rest of your life. Because learning is about learning what you don't know. I feel like an idiot all the time. You know, I'm very senior in my profession. I constantly feel like a totally stupid person. And that's because I'm willing to always put myself on the edge of what I know. And, you know, teeter over into what I don't know. And that's that's the curiosity. And I think that teaching kids from a young age that that's okay, you know, don't you don't know everything? Of course you don't? How would you? None of us do? How could you possibly know? What, what is most depressing is to get to meet someone who thinks they do know everything. Totally. Oh, well, and you'll never meet anyone more boring. Exactly. Exactly. So having confidence in that. I mean, don't Don't be an idiot with not knowing things. But you know, having a confidence in that of like, I don't understand that. Let me kind of explore that. And it's okay, if I kind of make a mistake, or one thing people don't realise, I think a lot about people doing research. So how do you get into research? And what do you do? Most of my research I throw away because it's stupid. So get on that guy. I'm very well published. And I'm quite a successful researcher. But really, most of what I've ever written down and thought about is pretty dominance in the bin, because you only get the good stuff by trying to do that. Right. And so that Yeah, you refer to a paper about the, what's called gluttony and sloth, which is, you know, I had a PhD student, I just giving a talk, and I just wanted a picture. And I said, Could you just do me this picture of how calories have changed over the last 30 years, and he came back with this downward sloping line, it showed that people were eating less calories in the UK over the last 30 years. I'm like, that's wrong, like you've done something wrong. We've just wrapped it the wrong way, you know? And he's like, no, this is in the data. And I'm like, No, it's not as wrong. And he finally convinced me it was true and and then we wrote a great paper out of it, and it's turns out to be easy, and it's super interesting and turns out that people's life has become more sedentary than then the reduction in calories. So that's what that explains the rise in obesity. But isn't it that's an example of you do. I think you're more successful if you're open to the fact that you're Well, actually, so being curious or being like, yeah, maybe maybe my prayers about this or not the right ones, maybe I'm, I have the wrong idea about the world. And let me find out from other people who maybe have information I don't have. Yeah, I think in any job, you'll get further, if you're like that, yeah, I again, 100% it's something I actually one of my favourite things about Twitter is being able to follow so many people that have different lives to me. And to, I might not be able to come in contact with and especially over the last year would not have been able to come in contact with them, and just being able to kind of sit back and listen. And what I've kind of what I've learned from that is there were so many questions that I didn't even know, I wanted to ask or needed to ask. And it just so happened that they were talking about the answers in front of my eyes, although a good question is hard. Yes, it is. And often, you know, it's cheesy, but it's true, you know, two ears and one mouth. So you should listen more than you talk, which I'm still working on at the ripe old age of 40. But you know, we'll get there. But I think that that's something interesting about your work is that it really is about listening to the data. And, and then, and not looking for the easy answers, necessarily, but really stepping back. And one of the things I wanted to ask you about is so am i right in thinking that since you joined the Institute of Fiscal Studies, I forgot the word studies there, that you now have a 5050 gender party. Is that right? No. And and you talk about the automatic ones, that can't be credited to me, though, just to be clear, because you said since I've joined, I've been there for 30 years. I mean, there wasn't gender parity when I joined and there is now but I can't take credit for that. Fair enough. Fair enough. No, sorry. I didn't mean to imply that. But I mean, I'm sure you had an influence on it. No. Yeah. But but that must have been quite interesting to see how that's changed. But also, I've seen you talk about look, gender parity is one of the most obvious ones. And and it came up, I think, when the BBC was the BBC, when the government published the, the pay gap stuff, and it was like, okay, the gender pay gaps there, but there are so many other different pay gaps underneath it all. And so we really, you know, I suppose now people talk more about intersectional diversity and how important that is. And I'd really love to hear kind of what you've learned over that past 30 years, it's like, okay, there's, there's more gender parity here now, but just within this organisation, not across economics as a whole. And, and for me, and it's the same not just for economics, but any, any field across, you know, study or work or whatever industry, but it just seems to me that diversity, you know, has a huge impact on public policy, and who influences it. So if you've got diversity in the field of economics, particularly, it means that the people making the decisions have more diverse ways of thinking and experiences. So hopefully, it can then start to impact people's lives on every level. I know, again, that's a big thought and a big kind of em, if you like, but I think it is vital, isn't it? And I often I've been the only woman in the room like you, I used to work in the oil industry. And and also, even in my time at The Guardian, I was on a sales team where it was all men and me, and it was very interesting. But that's probably the least challenging as a kind of straight white woman. You know, it wasn't particularly challenging for me in that situation. Yes, I had things that I had to tackle and certain things, I did nip in the bud quite early. But I kind of because I was, I'd had certain experiences. By the time I was in those positions, I was much more interested in looking out for the other younger women around me than anything else. But I really relate to what you said about that. It's like, Okay, well, you can look at me as a white woman in a particular position and the diversity if you like that brings, but there's so much more that needs to be done. So what for you are the things that that we need to do? And let's say in schools, in terms of getting people kind of trickling into economics, but just across the board, what are the things that you think, or you've seen that you think, do you know what, we could do more of that, but this could work? Yeah, so another absolute great question. So I do think that's incredibly important. I think gender is important, but I think it's absolutely not the only thing so for me personally, I mean, it was I grew up with older brothers. I've often been the only woman in the room particularly a bit bit older. But that never bothered me. What bothered me much more was that I didn't have the polished Oxbridge ability to string sentences together. I've learned a bit how to speak better, but I don't you know, I didn't come from that background. I grew up in a household where we talked a lot that definitely did my parents both like to debate. So I learned that skill from them. But, you know, I've often felt that I didn't belong in a room, because I didn't feel that I had that kind of credential. That sounds funny from someone who's called a dame and all that now, but that's not you know, that's not where I came from at all. And it's, it was having the grit and determination to not want to that, you know, there's other guys when that kept me in the room. And I think that that's a bigger barrier for a lot of people being different. I can't imagine him he didn't. There's all sorts of other issues, ethnicity and sexual orientation, and whatever that I think just leads to people otherness, but it goes back to the last question that we had, which is, you know, you need to change and why is that different at irfs? It's a curiosity driven place. If you're curious, you don't care. I like to talk to people who are different than me, I know what I think I know what people who are similar to me think, because I've, you know, because they've got the same information says me, what's really fun is to talk to someone who's different, who has a different experience of the world, or who has a different set of information. And if I'm curious, I'm going to want to talk to them. And so what needs to change, it's not just that we need to fight to be at the table, of course we do. Whoever we is, whatever your background is, that is not non standard, you do need to fight to be at the table. But everyone at the table needs to also get their curiosity hat on, we're never going to solve the problems in that aggressive kind of way, do even just the language I was using fighting as I think that's actually the really the wrong analogy. Even I just used it, we need, you know, people sitting at the table need to accept that the world's gonna be a better place if they listen to a more diverse set of voices. And that's for sure true in public policy. And so from what the education system needs to do is, is partly trained people what I what frustrates me a lot at Manchester, which of course has a pretty good level, high quality student intake, but they don't have the ability to debate and write and speak that you get from the Oxbridge education. And we don't teach them that schools don't teach them that most universities outside of Oxbridge don't teach them that they don't have the resources to do it. So one of the things I've been very passionate about communicating economics is teaching students how to speak. And there's nothing, the only way to do it is to do it. And they've Cohen, who runs who's the kind of managing, discovering economics now worked with me on a project on communicating economics first. And that really is about giving people the tools to be able to sit at the table and participate in those discussions. So you do need to work hard, you do need to, you know, challenge yourself to be able to write better and speak better, because those are clearly important communication tools. And I think those are the most important thing that we need to give people in order to be able to get them to, to participate in decision making, in all places. That's so interesting, because when I was teaching Effie, it's one of the exercises I used to do with the students was, you know, we call it negotiation training. And it was fascinating to see, especially at the 16 year old data, right, this is the challenge you have, I think one of them, one of the challenges we gave them was you're going to your boss, you want to work four days a week and one day a week from home, how are you going to convince them? And it was just getting them to flip that switch? of why would it benefit your boss, so that you can convince them, you know, just little things like thought that they just never thought about? Because at that age of 16, God, I didn't care about what my decisions like, what I didn't care how they impacted anyone else in the world. Because I am a 16 year old, I only care about myself, and not silky. So it's really interesting. So I get communication going. So I get my students to write an email to their boss about why the gender pay gap matters. Exactly that amazing job being moralistic about it just be like, why does your boss care? You know, like, what was the problem for him? And it is, it's that thing of, you know, how do we get that in earlier if you like, but, you know, that's not to put it on teachers because let's face it, they've got a zillion things, especially right now that they're trying to do and I suppose you've had your share of that, you know, delivering lectures online and and through video at the moment is particularly challenging for everyone. And, and some actually, a different project that I'm working on at the moment is about you know, cross curricular and how How giving students access to cross curricular activities when they get back into school can hopefully help them to, you know, bridge some of the gaps that this year has taken away from them and hopefully give them a better experience. But I was halfway through seeing that and the question that I had for you went right out of my head. That's my age and lack of sleep from hobbies. Cross curricular activities is a great idea. I mean, it's so important. We should do more of that. Yeah. Oh, yeah. said we, and you do none of that at university now? Yeah. Well, it's interesting, because when I did my degree at Aberdeen University, it was in English literature. And by the time I graduated, it was split honours in English literature and linguistics, because and I like, oh, here's a different element of the language that I hadn't thought about. But what was wonderful is that in the first two years, you could pick basically any, any subject you wanted for extra credit. So I did philosophy, I think I did a one module and biology at one point says like, Oh, I need some science in my day, you know, and just kind of, and I do think that that is really important. And I think, especially when we're trying to do catch up, if you like, not necessarily catch up, because I suppose that's a whole other debate for people getting back into school. But yeah, so there's, I suppose my point was that there's a lot of pressure on teachers and parents, especially at the moment. And what I love about your story, and what we said at the beginning is that, you know, take a breath, it's okay, if you go off and you do something else for 10 or 15 years, it's okay, if you come with background, you can still be successful, and have learned from everything that you've done in advance of that. And I think that, that, that Lee, that kind of connects for me as well into the whole Oxbridge thing and the, the gap between what what we get in different schools, like what kind of experience we get in different schools, and what students learn in different schools and different universities, is that sometimes you have to go out into the world elsewhere to learn some of those skills and come back in. And one of my questions that's maybe not related to economics, but I just quite like to ask it is, because I've experienced this too, where I've been in London for the past 15 years. And I think you can still tell that I'm Scottish, I don't think that's disappeared, it's still there. And, and like you said, you know, you change the way you talk and all the rest of it. I definitely talk differently when I talk to my family. And I used to speak to students who were who had, you know, you know, colloquial accents, or who would have more working class accents, and they were embarrassed by it. And they didn't feel like they could apply for jobs in certain companies, because they didn't feel like they could change the way they talked. And a big part of me is like, Well, why should you as long as people can understand what you're saying? There's a snobbery that we need to cut through as well. So it's, I suppose it links into what is the balance between helping helping students to fit a certain mould so that they can get their foot in the door and change things? And how much do we need to do? Not me, because I'm not an economists in this particular thing? Is it my responsibility, thankfully, but how much do people within an industry or sector need to do to just go, right, guys, we need to get over ourselves. Because Hey, that person talks has no impact on how you know how important their thinking is? Or how important that thing they're working on is, what are your Yeah, what are your thoughts on that? That kind of balance? I think it's very easy. And that's, again, a great question. I think it's 100% not getting people to fit a mould we have to and in fact, I think that for two reasons. So one is, I think there's a lot of it's incumbent on the people in positions of power to be curious, and, you know, open open their arms to a diversity of people. But I think if you're a person, so one of the great economist I worked with at the RFS had an incredibly strong Jordy accent super strong. never lost it. Yeah, very successful. And he just played to it. And I often said to him, and I think this was true for me, as a woman to your unusual people. You go, you know, trying to get a job. They've seen 100 white male economists, you're the one woman, they're going to remember who you are, use it. I mean, you know, I'm gonna use it, try and sleep with him or something like that. For you, yeah. And I said with him, he had this strong jaw react, you could see everyone start thinking, Oh, he's going to be stupid. And you could see it, you could see that they think God stupid. And then he say something really smart. And it'll be like, wow. And they remembered it. Whereas if a white Oxbridge guy had said that, that smart thing. They wouldn't really remember it because they expected it. So use it. I love it. Oh, yeah. Make it strong and make it of you. Of course, the other side has to be willing to listen to that too. But I think don't feel that you have to become someone you're not. Yeah. And it's that not apologising for getting into the room, isn't it? Like I'm here? Yeah. You know? Yep. And this is? Absolutely. And I'm aware that we're running out of time, and I could speak to you for hours. Genuinely, I've got so many questions, so maybe we'll do a follow up. But I've got a final question, which I haven't even asked you about your Diem who or anything. And that's very exciting. Just because how cool is it to be in the same group as like Dame Judi Dench, and you know, what's her name from Downton Abbey? and Maggie Smith, like, there's so many amazing diems aren't there? anyway? I'll ask you about that a different day. Or you can answer that. I think it's a little bit sexist. I must admit that, Sophie? Absolutely. If you become a Sir, your wife gets to be called a lady. But my husband's distraught that because a day he doesn't get called anything at all. And it's terrible. There's a slight like, So you mentioned some good dame's. But there's a slight comedy element that you sort of feel that you should put a blonde wig on and be a bit goofy with a day hood, whereas the centre is sort of very respected. And you know, but it's great. Yeah, I think pretty dense. And Maggie Smith there too, of course, they will think of doors. Yeah, exactly. And Emma Thompson No, do but I think because my background, I think because of growing up in the 80s. And after the the you tree revelations, there's a lot of SARS that just you know, have gone way out the windows and centre Diem, who does definitely a better option. Anyway, that decide, let me get to my final question. So this might be a hard one. I don't know. So just to finish off, when we're thinking about, you know, how did you get here? So what would you say are and I'm going to ask you for those simple answers I promised I wouldn't ask earlier. But what would you say are three things that you would credit for getting you to where you are today, my family? So my parents and my brothers and sisters for teaching me to debate and the background that has so my family, my grit and determination? Yeah, I always say my husband is much smarter than me, but works half as hard was a work twice as hard. So and we're equally successful. And, and curiosity. I definitely think that being you know, willing to engage with the world in its diversity, and wanting, always wanting to see something more. I'm never satisfied with what's in front of me. I always want not not in a bad way, but in a curious way. I think those those would be the three things I would highlight. Brilliant, amazing. Thank you so much for for letting me have your time today. And yeah, again, just thank you so much. I really appreciate it. Thank you. That was really good. It was quite fun.