For Leonora Risse, being taken seriously as an economist has not been easy, particularly as she has chosen to encourage other women into the field.

Leonora earned her PhD in Economics from the University of Queensland. She has previously served as a Senior Research Economist for the Australian Government Productivity Commission and is currently a Senior Lecturer in Economics at RMIT University in Melbourne. Her research focuses on understanding gender differences in economic opportunities and outcomes encompassing such issues as the gender pay gap, women’s under-representation in leadership and the influence of societal norms.

However, Leonora’s areas of expertise extend to labour economics, demographic economics, economic psychology, disadvantage and wellbeing. She engages regularly with public audiences, government, industry and community groups on gender equality issues. This includes identifying evidence-based strategies to close gender gaps and applying a gender lens to economic analysis and policy design. Leonora was named among Apolitical’s 100 Most Influential People in Gender Policy in 2021.

Respect Women in Economics
Gender equity has always been a deep mission in her heart. “In my own field of economics, the persistent under-representation of women meant that we needed to take bold action to tackle the deeply ingrained inequities in our profession. For too long, the insights, wisdom and experiences of women and the economic policy issues that matter for women have been overlooked and under-valued.”

 One of her most meaningful contributions was to be part of a wonderful team of women who created the Women in Economics Network (WEN) in Australia in 2017. Its purpose is to tackle inequity head-on. “It has been an honour to serve as National Chair of WEN and play a role in empowering and elevating the many brilliant female economists in Australia whose talent and expertise might otherwise go unrecognised. WEN is proving to have a meaningful impact on the economics profession in our country.”

Leonora continues; “Members of our WEN community attest that WEN has had the effect of broadening the spectrum of topics that are on the agenda, elevating economic issues that are of concern to women and improving the visibility of female economists in public debate.” Perhaps most significantly in touching people’s lives, WEN members report they feel a stronger sense of belonging and inclusion. Even men in the profession attest that WEN has made a positive impact.

“Across my research, advocacy and policy engagement on gender equality, I have strived to use my research insights to help empower policymakers, organisations and advocates with tools for change. Equipping others with a deeper and authentic knowledge of what works to close gender gaps and using factual evidence to help dispel myths that get in the way of true progress, is all part of our armour. I am deep believer in democratising this knowledge and am keenly in the process of creating a Gender Equality Evidence Hub as an open-access online portal to help equip more advocates with these tools.”

women in economics
In all her work, Leonora firmly believes, “Gender equality is about respect, inclusion and empowerment for all women, from all backgrounds and across all communities. Gender equality is not progress if some groups of women are being left behind.”

Leonora believes gender equity needs to include men as part of societal change. Through her research and policy work, she aims to help build an awareness that gender norms and biases are constrictive and damaging for men too. “This helps us move towards this goal of gender equality and dismantling the gender norms that perpetuate biases and barriers as a shared, collective, society-wide mission.” Her unwavering belief is that gender equality is a human right.

“It’s about dignity, respect, the opportunity to achieve our potential and for each person’s contribution to be fairly valued. It is uplifting to be part of a global community of change-makers who hold this value dear to their hearts.”