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Meet two RBA economists passionate about social justice

Meet two RBA economists who chose their careers inspired by a passion for social justice issues

The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) is Australia’s central bank and is responsible for conducting monetary policy, maintaining a strong financial system and issuing our banknotes. And the team? Talented and passionate about making the world a better place!

Jessica Dunphy, Senior Analyst, RBA

A career in economics wasn’t always an obvious choice for Jessica. “I didn’t study economics in high school and honestly didn’t know what economics was before I decided to study it at university,” she admits.

However, in her senior high school years, Jessica became interested in politics and social issues like gender inequality and poverty, and began to notice that “insights from economists were often used to inform policy decisions”.

“I felt economics held the answer to understanding why disadvantage persists in society and what we can do to help stop it,” Jessica says. So she signed up for a double degree in economics and arts at the University of Queensland, kickstarting her career path as an economist.

Economics careers
Jessica Dunphy didn’t always know much about economics, but she knew it was key to driving real social change. Image: Lauren Trompp

A social science

Economics isn’t just another branch of science or maths. While there is some maths involved, Jessica explains that economics is all about using a systematic approach to solving complex real-world problems. “Economics and politics can be deeply intertwined.”

Jessica’s current role as a senior analyst involves thinking about the big issues around wages and unemployment. Her career goal? To reach a leadership position where she can be instrumental in driving change during critical historical moments.

Jessica’s pathway

  • Bachelor of Economics (Honours) / Bachelor of Arts, University of Queensland
  • Intern, RBA
  • Intern, KPMG
  • Analyst, RBA
  • Senior Analyst, RBA

Zan Fairweather, Senior Analyst, RBA

Throughout high school and university, Zan says he was really interested in issues like poverty, health and the environment. During his degree – a Bachelor of Commerce at the University of Melbourne – Zan first learnt about economics “as a framework for thinking about the drivers of, and solutions to, important social issues like these”, he says.

Zan chose economics as his major and hasn’t looked back.

Choices, choices

The challenge for Zan was choosing which field to pursue. “There are a lot of industries that hire economists,” he says. To help him decide, Zan gained real-world work experience during his degree, including in health economics at the World Bank and the Fred Hollows Foundation, as well as interning at the RBA and Deloitte.

In the end, Zan chose a graduate role at the RBA, where he is currently working as a senior analyst in the department responsible for issuing Australia’s banknotes.

Economics careers
Zan Fairweather chose to major in economics after he discovered it was a framework for solving some of our most pressing social problems. Image: Lauren Trompp

Cash flow

Zan’s job is to use statistical models to help predict demand for cash, ensure there are enough banknotes printed to meet that demand and create policies that make the distribution of banknotes (that is, how they get to your bank or ATM) more efficient and sustainable.

“The most exciting part is being able to apply what I’ve learnt at university to a real-world issue and that my ideas will help contribute to change,” he says.

Zan says it’s an exciting time to be an economist: “There are so many things you can do with economics, so it can provide a flexible career path if you do decide to take it further.”

Zan’s Pathway

  • Bachelor of Commerce (Economics), University of Melbourne
  • Research Assistant, Fred Hollows Foundation
  • Consultant, World Bank
  • Analyst, RBA
  •  Senior Analyst, RBA

This article originally appears in the flip cover of Careers with STEM: Maths & Data 2022Careers with STEM: Economics – in partnership with the RBA.


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