Janet Yellen – Chair of the Federal Reserve

          Last week Janet Yellen was confirmed by the Senate to be the first woman to chair the Federal Reserve Bank, a position making her, according to one analyst, “the second-most-powerful person in the country.” She joins Christine Lagard, the first woman to head the International Monetary Fund, in guiding financial policies for the world’s most powerful nations. 

JANET YELLEN          As chair of the Federal Reserve, Janet Yellen is now a woman of extraordinary power. The Federal Reserve System, established in 1913, makes policy decisions without approval from the President or anyone else in any branch of government. Nor does Congress approve the bank’s funding and members of the Board of Governors serve terms that span presidencies and congressional terms.

This power comes with extraordinary responsibilities. The economy has been kept afloat by a large infusion of stimulus money, according to a plan that Yellen designed. Now she has the onerous task of tapering the stimulus without sending the economy into a new freefall. She must also implement the Dodd-Frank banking reforms that regulate financial organizations. Her predecessors believed strongly in allowing those institutions to self-regulate, but she has indicated that one of her “most important goals of the postcrisis period,” is to address the too-big-to-fail issue. She will have to balance the views of those who believe the law is burdensome and those who believe it does not go far enough.

Some argue she may be better-trained for the position than any previous office holder. Janet Yellen earned a bachelor’s degree in economics, summa cum laude, from Brown University and then earned a Master’s and Doctorate in economics from Yale. She taught at Harvard University and the London School of Economics. She worked at the Federal Reserve in the 1970’s and became a professor at the University of California, Berkeley. In the 1990’s she served on the White House Council of Economic Advisors under President Clinton. She then served as President and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank in San Francisco. She warned early that the subprime meltdown was coming and would contribute to an inequality that would “undermine American democracy” unless the social safety net was strengthened. In 2010 she was elected vice president of the Federal Reserve.

Dr. Yellen’s academic research focused on the causes and implications of unemployment. She holds what Time magazine calls “the contrarian idea that low wages can actually increase unemployment.” She believes that unemployment is the country’s biggest problem at this time and her own research demonstrates that workers who feel underpaid are less productive. She supports a higher minimum wage and asserts that new economic policies must recognize that the last five years strained not only the economy, but individual families as well.

LEARN MORE:

Read about her confirmation: http://www.politico.com/story/2014/01/janet-yellen-senate-confirmation-federal-reserve-chairman-101800.html

Read a short biography: http://www.biography.com/people/janet-yellen-21362135

QUESTION OF THE WEEK:

          In your opinion, what is the most significant economic issue for women today?

Fall 2013’s First Women To. . .

THE MUSESI received the lovely grace of being able to spend the fall in Southern Europe. I enjoyed the quality of life and the freedom from the usual daily responsibilities, but I missed out on being in touch with the news from the United States. When I returned to a pile of magazines and newspapers that I had not read, I began to plow through them and discovered that there had been several firsts for women of which I had been unaware:

**In September, Nancy Gibbs, a best-selling author and essayist who comments on politics and values in the United States, became the first woman to hold the position of Managing Editor at Time magazine.

** Mylène Paquette of Montreal was the first women to row a one-person boat across the North Atlantic. Literally, this one doesn’t fit my listing of first women from the United States, but Time magazine said she was the “first North American woman to” and that certainly makes her American:

**Janet Napolitano has already appeared in the daily Women of Note twice: on November 6th, as the first woman governor to succeed another woman governor and on November 29th, her birthday, as the first Secretary of Homeland Security. Now she has another distinction: the first woman to head the University of California’s 10-campus system.

**Susan Westerberg Prager is the first dean and chief executive of Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles. Earlier in her career she was the first woman to hold the position of dean of the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law.

**Three women share the “First Woman To. . .” honors for being the first to pass the Marine Corps’ combat training course: Pfcs Julia Carroll, Christina Fuentes Montenegro and Katie Gorz.

***And now, Mary Barra has been named the first female CEO of General Motors. She is the first CEO of any major auto company and General Motors is now the biggest company in America headed by a woman.

***Janet Yellen still waits in the wings for Senate confirmation of her appointment to chief of the Federal Reserve. The word is her appointment will be approved before the end of the year. At that time she joins Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, as one of the two most powerful economic leaders in the free world.

If you know of any more firsts from the fall of 2013, please add them here, by clicking on the comments section.