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The Impact of Mothers: Stories from Three Economists

Friday, May 8, 2020
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By Maria Hasenstab, Public Affairs Staff

A mother can be a powerful role model. Her choices can inspire those who follow her. That’s one of the many reasons that we celebrate mothers in May.

Three women who are making their marks in the field of economics highlighted the power of mothers as mentors, role models and teachers in recent episodes of the St. Louis Fed’s Women in Economics Podcast Series.

Here are excerpts from interviews with Paula Tkac, Daria Sevastianova and Ana Maria Santacreu

“A Mother Who Broke a Lot of Rules”

Paula Tkac

Paula Tkac, senior vice president and associate research director at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, considers herself lucky because her mother worked outside the home.

“I was very fortunate to have a mother who broke a lot of rules, and by that I mean social norm,” she said. “When I was 3 years old, in … 1969, my mom went back to work and I went to preschool, which today would be nothing new. But at the time, this was a rarity.”

In elementary school, Tkac said, she needed special permission to stay at school during lunch when  other children walked home to eat with their mothers. Tkac also recalled a fifth-grade debate on the topic of women in the labor force. “I took the side that women should be free to decide whether or not they wanted to work in the workplace,” she recalled. “And a young man in my class took the other side.”

The experience of having a mother who worked outside the home was empowering for Tkac.

“So, from a very early age, I had a role model or a mentor who told me that I could do anything I wanted to do and it didn’t really matter what other people were doing,” she said.

As Tkac later went through her studies, she searched for role models all over the place—men, women, anyone who had qualities she hoped to emulate.

“But as I got older, I realized this impact that my mother had on me,” she said, “and I realized that these role models and this sense of permission to be yourself is an important component in making sure that everyone can realize their own potential, that nothing seems closed off.”

“A Very Strong Woman”

Daria Sevastianova

Daria Sevastianova, associate professor of economics at the University of Southern Indiana, said she was lucky to have a strong mother. When asked about overcoming challenges she has faced as a woman in the field of economics, Sevastianova credited her mother.

“I really never thought there were so many challenges,” she said. “Maybe I’m lucky because my mother is an academic and a very strong woman, and she just kind of taught me how to solve problems and love challenges.”

“Economics Is in Our Everyday Life”

Ana Maria Santacreu

Ana Maria Santacreu

Ana Maria Santacreu, a senior economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, spoke about her young daughter and why she thinks it’s important to teach her about economics.

“I think it’s very important for everybody to understand the economic world they live in,” she said.

Santacreu is from Spain, and her husband (who is also an economist) is from Argentina. Santacreu said their daughter will be exposed to economics through discussions at home and through visits to different countries. “It’s very important for her to learn about economics just to try to understand what’s going on in countries that her family care(s) about,” she said.

Studying economics is important for young kids in general, Santacreu said. “Economics is in our everyday life. Every decision that we take is influenced by economics.”

Explore More

Women in Economics Podcast Series – The St. Louis Fed has published more than 30 podcasts in this series since it was launched in 2018. Learn about the careers of those making their marks in the field of economics.

Why I Pursued an Economics Career: Stories from Three Prominent Women – In this blog post, learn why The Economist editor-in-chief, a leading Baylor researcher, and the president of the Centre for Economic Policy Research decided to work in the field.

Maria Hasenstab 

Maria Hasenstab is a media relations coordinator with the St. Louis Fed. She works in Public Affairs.

Tagged maria hasenstabpaula tkacdaria sevastianovaana maria santacreuwomen in economics