Central bank No. 2 says more diversity at policy table is key in modern economy

TORONTO _ The Bank of Canada’s senior deputy governor is calling for more diverse perspectives at the policy decision-making table to avoid falling into an “echo chamber” that reinforces the same viewpoint.

Carolyn Wilkins said Friday that while such a move may not seem relevant for a central bank at first, diverse views are crucial as the Bank of Canada works on modern economic projects.

“We’re doing projects where we actually require that diversity of thought,” Wilkins said at the G7 Women’s Forum in Toronto. “Whether we’re thinking about digitalization, whether we’re thinking about crypto assets, what the new economy is going to look like. We need that diversity.”

Wilkins took her “central bank hat off” as she was speaking during a panel discussion at the G7 Women’s Forum in Toronto on the benefits of an inclusive economy and the challenges to achieving it.

Her comments on gender diversity on Friday come after the Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz spoke in March about strategies to boost female workforce participation. Poloz pointed to Quebec’s subsidized child-care program as a tool that could be extended across the country to add more prime-age women to the workforce, and boost Canada’s economy in turn.

Wilkins said Friday that the Bank of Canada has made strides in gender diversity within its own ranks, as roughly half of its 1,700 staff are currently women, but representation is lower in the economics and finance roles.

She said the education system needs to encourage more diversity in the so-called STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics and improve the pipeline of talent.

“Real change comes when you have a diverse set of people around the table, because that’s when you get diverse sets of ideas of what we should care about… You also can see that you avoid falling into that echo chamber,” she said.

Wilkins also said, more broadly, rising inequality in society is a concern as it leads to more volatile economic growth, and erodes trust in institutions.

“When you don’t have social cohesion, when it’s undermined because people think the system isn’t fair and it doesn’t include them, then you undermine trust for institutions,” she said. “And for the Bank of Canada, trust is actually our currency. There is a lot of trust in the Bank of Canada right now and we just can’t take that for granted.”