Thursday, October 10, 2013

What Does Yellen’s Nomination Mean for Women?

Yesterday President Obama nominated Janet Yellen to replace Ben Bernanke as the Chair of the Federal Reserve. If confirmed, this would be a landmark moment for women in the USA. But it would also have reverberations around the world – she would be the first woman ever to head a major central bank.

Yellen’s distinguished and extensive career in economics began as an assistant professor at UC Berkeley in 1980, where she stayed for fourteen years and is presently a professor emerita at the Haas School of Business. In 1997 she moved from being on the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve to Chairwoman of President Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisors. Yellen became President and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco in 2004. After six years in that capacity she was confirmed as Vice Chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve, a position she holds today.

Aside from her considerable experience, Yellen is highly regarded in financial circles due to her knowledge of the economy and financial systems. She was among a small number of economists to warn about the dangers of the subprime mortgage market before the recent recession. Her nomination takes place following the withdrawal of Larry Summers from consideration. A top economic advisor to Presidents Obama and Clinton, he faced criticism about possible ties to Wall Street from both parties.

Her nomination follows an increasing trend of women taking an active role in the running of the nation’s most vital institutions. The last election cycle saw the percentage of women in Congress increase from 16.9% to a historic high of 18.3%. Under President Obama, 43% of his appointees to the administration have been women. Although this denotes significant progress, there is still a way to go before women reach their full representational potential in all levels of government.

In a vicious cycle where women don’t enter the heavily male-dominated field because of a lack of role models, Yellen’s nomination could prove to be a breaking factor for many and pave the way for women to shape economic and monetary policy in the US.