Yellen Breaks New Ground For Women – Lightly Braised Turnip

Janet Yellen Trailblazes New Territory For Women As She Takes The Helm At The Fed Reserve

Published January 28, 2014


Dr. Janet Yellen will soon take the helm of the Federal Reserve Bank – or “Fed” –  as its first female chair.  A former professor of economics at Berkeley, she already has substantial experience at the Fed.  Since 2010, she has assisted current chair Ben Bernanke in her capactiy as a Fed vice-chair.

In the coming years, there will be much more to talk regarding Yellen’s approach to monetary policy and the challenges she will face in taking over from Bernanke.  For now, though, let’s revel for a moment on the fact that she will be the first woman to lead the Fed.  Hooray!  In fact, she will be the first woman to head a central bank in any major Western nation.

Ever since her nomination, Yellen has busied herself countering the pernicious stereotypes about women not being up to the task of managing the Fed.  Indeed, Yellen came out punching in January.  “I am so excited!  I just can’t wait to start,” said Yellen at a press conference at the Fed’s Chicago office.  Ever self-effacing, Yellen has played down her accomplishments even while her doubters scrutinize them.  “Oh my god, I’m so bad with numbers!” she said in good-natured fashion.  “I see some of these reports they give me at [the Fed] and I swear my eyes roll back in my head,” she claimed.  “Like, I must have bought 50 pairs of shoes just from the stress of receiving these things.”

Most important for Yellen might be choosing the right people around her.  “I’m just going to listen to whoever sounds the smartest,” she said at a press conference last week at the Media Club in Washington, D.C.  “All I know is what Ben [Bernanke] keeps telling me which is we need to keep putting more money in,” she said.  “Well, more money sounds good to just about anyone, right?”

Yellen, like Christine Lagarde, the Frenchwoman who took over the International Monetary Fund, in 2011, will be looked at as a pioneer for women’s achievements in traditionally male disciplines.

On the other hand, Yellen prefers to view herself as an economist serving the public good than a feminist pioneer.  “People say, ‘you’re like a modern day Marie Curie,’ and I say, ‘does she make pastries they sell at 7-Eleven?’”

“Oh my God, I don’t have anything yet!”

One thing Yellen will need to grapple with early on is her style of dress.  This will be her first big statement.  Whereas her predecessors all wore dark business suits, she will need to chart new sartorial ground as a woman.  “Oh my God, I don’t have anything yet!” she exclaimed.  “It’s going to take me my first two weeks just to sort out what colors look good in that office – I wish I could change things up there,” she said.  Unfortunately for Yellen, the staid manner of the Fed established by her male predecessors will not be so easy to topple.

At least Yellen will set her own course in terms of monetary policy.  She is expected to continue Bernanke’s quantitative easing by injecting more dollars into the economy.  Already the consummate Fed chief, Yellen plays her cards close to her vest.  She does, however, offer a hint of what she has in store: “Ben says it’s just a matter of letting enough money out, and I’m not going to mess it up by stopping it.” 

She makes it sound so simple.





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