The U.S. Senate today made history by voting to confirm Janet Yellen as Chair of the Federal Reserve. Practically one hundred years to the day from when the Federal Reserve was created, the central bank finally has its first woman president. It’s about time.
But Dr. Yellen’s appointment is the right one for more reasons than gender equity. As over 500 prominent economists laid out in an open letter to President Obama, Dr. Yellen’s appointment is the right one because of her “ability to hear all points of view and then act effectively,” and her “clear and nuanced understanding of labor markets, including why they do not always generate enough jobs.” These economists deemed Dr. Yellen “second to none” and called her “the best possible leader for the Federal Reserve Board at this critical time in our nation’s history.”
Dr. Yellen accurately identified the housing bubble and called for stronger regulation of financial institutions to limit its negative consequences on the economy. She has put the goal of reducing unemployment on an equal footing with the Fed’s focus on fighting inflation. And in the face of a shamefully sexist whispering campaign to undermine her extraordinary credentials for this position, Dr. Yellen demonstrated the kind of strength and equanimity that an effective Fed Chair ought to have.
I hope that Janet Yellen will inspire more women to pursue degrees in economics and careers in the financial industry. Male undergraduates pursuing economics majors outnumber female majors three to one while women are only 17% of executive officers in the financial and insurance industries. Now that change is taking place at the very top, it’s time to break glass ceilings at every tier of the financial-industry citadel.