It’s the question that’s on everyone’s lips: what can the Bank of England tell us about women in music criticism?

Radio 4’s Today programme was recently discussing how Kate Barker, the single female on the Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) had stepped down, and had been replaced by a man, Dr Martin Weale. A quick catch-up for those of you not fluent in finance: the MPC makes decisions on interest rate levels and tries to control inflation. The results affect pretty much everyone and so ideally the committee’s decisions would reflect the interests of the country as a whole, especially as the credit crunch has made the financial sector appear alarmingly out of touch with ordinary people.

Getting annoyed at the MPC’s gender imbalance may seem like an argument for positive discrimination, or even worse, imply that women are needed for their ‘social outreach’ abilities (displaying a warm, friendly face that the public will trust). The women that appeared on Today dismissed both these trains of thought, and agreed there are plenty of top-class female economists — Elinor Ostrom won the Nobel prize for Economics last year. But only 4 of the 38 candidates for the empty committee seat were women. Why are female economists shunning the MPC?

The evidence shows that most female economists at this level tend to come from an industry background, with practical experience in the markets. MPC members on the other hand almost entirely have their background in academia. The MPC favours the application of macro economics, which (roughly) involves attempting to find umbrella trends throughout the entire economy. Unfortunately, the business-orientated female economists generally agree that macro economics doesn’t actually work in real life. Former Independent economics editor Diane Coyle (one of the Today guests) didn’t actually say “women think macro economics is a load of old bollocks” on the radio but she came fairly close.

So how is this a tenuous metaphor for music criticism? Well, despite the appearance of a male-dominated culture, there is no shortage of female music critics either. However many of them tend to avoid traditional review-based music journalism that marks songs out of 10 and constructs all-time top-100 lists, preferring conversations and long-form pieces that leave numbers out of the equation. List-making is the macro economics here: satisfying in theory, but many female writers think it’s just not worthwhile bothering with in real life.

Does gender really matter when talking about music? Could women necessarily contribute something that men couldn’t, just because of their ovaries? Our passive music consumption is certainly over-gendered: not the CDs we buy or the websites we visit, but the songs heard while clothes-shopping, or on adverts for computer games (products aimed at both sexes, but compare Girls Aloud cooing at their Nintendogs to Eminem’s bilious ranting over footage of Call of Duty 2). Alexandra Burke is currently flaunting her perfect armpits for Sure and you can set your watch by how often Muse turn up during Formula 1 racing coverage. Music remains firmly targeted at demographics whether those demographics like it or not, and so men and women who are equally passionate about the same music will probably bring different experiences of it to the table.

These days we don’t need critics to tell us what a song sounds like — if we bother to read a music blog then it’s likely that we are interested in the writer’s opinion, formed by how they relate to the artist or the music. This obviously affects the kind of music that gets covered in the first place: to construct a rather stereotypical example, who would be best qualified (and willing) to write competently about a member of S Club Juniors who had chosen to release a song about the devastating social impact of My Little Pony? Someone who has experienced the horror first hand, of course — be they male or female. Without that background Calvin’s magnum opus likely wouldn’t be written about at all.

The experts interviewed on Today agreed that although gender was largely irrelevant to economics, there should be a mixture of both business and academic backgrounds on the MPC, not least to avoid the reinforcement of bad habits and general risk-taking idiocy. Similarly, to avoid becoming obsolete, the world of music criticism needs a balance between in-depth debate, top 100 lists, and developing mad macro-critical theories to prove how Lady Gaga’s lobster outfit is somehow linked to the new Belle & Sebastian album. Exploring our different musical experiences may not be as vital to the world as economic stability, but if we’re going to bother at all then we must make it as rich and varied as possible.