In this episode of Brazilian Women in Economics’s podcast, Paula Pereda and Laura Karpuska interview Elena Landau. She took her bachelor’s degrees in Economics and Law from PUC-Rio and her master’s degree in Economics also from PUC-Rio. She is currently president of the academic board of Livres, partner on the law firm Sergio Bermudes, member of the administrative council of the Rio de Janeiro’s Museum of Modern Art, and of the advisory board of COMGÁS, as well as a columnist in the newspaper Estadão.
Elena says that it was in her last year as an undergraduate when she fell in love with Economics. This happened as a new group of professors arrived at PUC-Rio bringing a greater awareness of the importance of economics for the making of public policies. Thus, she went on to a master’s degree at the same institution and from there to a Ph.D. at MIT. However, Elena talks about how, when arriving at MIT, she realized that her studies there were too far removed from the area related to the formulation of public policies, which she was more interested in. She then returned to Brazil without completing her Ph.D.
Elena comments on her trajectory in the following years: she started working at IPEA (Brazilian Institute of Applied Research in Economics) and she started teaching economics at PUC-Rio for undergraduates. By the end of the decade, she became interested by the political projects presented by the PSDB (Brazilian Social Democracy Party) at the time. Elena says that, after being invited by her former professors, she joined Tasso Jereissati’s economic advisory when he assumed the presidency of PSDB. Then, when Fernando Henrique Cardoso became Minister of Finance – and, later, the country’s president –, Elena went on to the BNDES (Brazilian National Bank for Economic and Social Development) where she became director of an area of the bank focused on privatization processes.
After leaving the BNDES, Elena went through brief periods in the financial market and consultancies in the electric sector, but she then decides to return to the studies by reinventing herself with a new bachelor’s degree in Law. In this new field, she discovers a preference for Public Law and Administrative Law, areas in which she currently works on. Besides that, since 2014, she starts to write columns in some of Brazil’s main newspapers, a new challenge. In 2017, she gets closer to new political movements, especially, Livres where she is nowadays president of the academic board.
Elena also reflects on some moments in her career in which she was or may have been treated differently for being a woman. She notes that it was later in life that she acquired a greater understanding of these phenomena, because at the time the events happened there was less attention to the topic in the society and even among women themselves. Elena is grateful that in more recent generations this understanding and women’s manifestations are more present.
When asked about what she would say to a younger Elena, the economist decides that her message would be to not give up and stick to what she believes. Elena explains that being firm was something very important in her life in moments when she had to make choices in which she was questioned, but after all, she does not regret those choices.
Don’t miss this episode!