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Elinor Who?

Elinor Ostrom, 2009 Winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics

Elinor Ostrom, 2009 Winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics

Elinor Ostrom is the first woman to win the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences which she shares with Oliver E. Williamson.

I listened to a brief interview with Mrs. Ostrom on NPR in which she stated that in high school she took algebra and geometry but was denied the opportunity to take trigonometry because of her sex.

Now, I might not see that as such a golden opportunity given that I failed algebra, twice. In all seriousness, however, imagine how many bright young women were steered away from potentially brilliant careers in economics and science.

Elinor Ostrom was not to be deterred. She graduated with a BA from UCLA and then used a position in the personnel office as a spring board to enter the graduate program in public administration “at a time when women didn’t go to graduate school”. She met her future husband, Vincent Ostrom, at UCLA and the two remain together today. In fact, before Elinor’s Nobel win the couple were best known for founding the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis at the University of Indiana, where they both teach, in 1973. The Workshop brings together students and scholars from disciplines as varied as business, anthropology and political science to conduct research in a supportive cross-disciplinary environment. The goal, “to promote the interdisciplinary study of institutions, incentives, and behavior as they relate to policy-relevant applications.”

The philosophy behind the Workshop is that “from the beginning, the Workshop’s founders, Elinor and Vincent Ostrom, have believed that ideas and theories must be considered through the lens of experience—that the critical connection is between ideas and what gets done.

This practical approach to solving big, big problems lies at the core of Ostrom’s ground breaking work \”Governing the Commons\” for which she won the Nobel Prize. It’s all about finding ways to better manage our resources as a community for the betterment of mankind.

Ivanka Trump may offer valuable lessons for young, ambitious business women and she’s certainly a style maven. And to be fair, she also has plenty of time to contribute much more than that. Elinor Ostrom went against conventional wisdom and blazed a trail for women. She might just have given us a path to change the world. What the hell, read both books!

Governing the Commons, the Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action

The Trump Card, Playing to Win in Work and Life