Sophie Ritchie says she was always passionate about social justice. And while an obvious choice to help realise her vision might have been to study a degree like international development, she decided that applying a more technical degree to social justice issues would be “a more impactful and potentially under-exploited approach to driving social change”.
Sophie enrolled in a degree in economics and political science at the University of Sydney, focussing on subjects that explored international development, gender, inequality and the environment.
That degree has taken her on a fascinating and fulfilling career path – including an internship at the International Fund for Agricultural Development at the United Nations headquarters in New York. That was just a few years after the 2008 Global Financial Crisis, which Sophie says made her background in economics and political science particularly relevant. “Economics and politics were intimately intertwined,” she says. “Economics was not just economics – it was the basis of a large part of current affairs at the time.”
Sophie has also worked for a company called Supply Nation that connects Indigenous suppliers to organisations, which included lobbying the corporate sector on the importance of supporting Indigenous businesses.
Sophie’s job title now couldn’t be more aligned with her original goal of making a social impact – she’s employed as Social Impact Manager at a tech innovation start-up within the University of Technology, Sydney, called UTS Rapido. Examples of projects she’s managing include exploring how digital technologies can close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, and how 3D printing can help revolutionise the way individuals with a physical disability walk.
Sophie says she still uses economics in her current work – for example applying macroeconomics to understand trends in the tech space, and microeconomic concepts around pricing strategies.
She says while some people might think an economics degree can only lead to very technical or financial-focussed careers, “that does not have to be the case”.
“An economics degree could take you to pretty much any profession and industry – and quite quickly, I believe,” she says.
“For better or worse, all fields of professional work have commercial and financial realities. This is as true of the non-profit sector as it is of big business – and economics can be brilliantly applied to social matters and challenges as much as it can financial ones!”
Sophie’s career path
>> Bachelor of Commerce (Liberal Studies), Economics / Political Economy, International Business, French, University of Sydney
>> Intern, International Fund for Agricultural Development, United Nations
>> Research Associate, The Vasudhara Foundation
>> Research Fellow, The Centre for Effective Altruism, University of Oxford
>> Relationship Manager, Supply Nation
>> Social Impact Manager, UTS Rapido
Author: Gemma Chilton
Gemma is the Managing Editor of Careers with STEM magazine. She has previously worked as Digital Managing Editor at Australian Geographic and a staff writer at Cosmos science magazine.