Business World

Tuesday 16 July 2019

Louise Kelly: Eight words that describe Janet Yellen

Janet Yellen will run the world's most influential central bank
Janet Yellen will run the world's most influential central bank
Louise Kelly

Louise Kelly

MOVE over Christine... there’s a new leading lady in town

In early September 2013, President of the Institute for Women's Policy Research, Heidi Hartmaan, circulated a letter to President Obama requesting that Janet Yellen be nominated to serve as chair of the Federal Reserve.

Within three days, the petition received signatures from more than 300 economists. After Larry Summers’ dramatic exit from the Fed race later that month, Vice Chair Janet Yellen was assumed favourite for nomination as Fed chief by Barack Obama.

Following Yellen's nomination by US President Barack Obama to take the helm at the US central bank, Yellen testifies to lawmakers for the first time as head of the Federal Reserve today. The reactions since her nomination have been varied to say the least.

However, Managing Director of the IMF Christine Lagarde has long campaigned for more women to become involved in moulding the global economy. And it looks like the gender tide in business is finally beginning to turn.

1. Trendsetter Janet Louise Yellen, 67, will be the first woman to head the US Federal Reserve, which was founded in 1913.  She will be the second woman to lead a central bank for a developed nation.  Elvira Nabiullina was appointed to lead Russia's central bank in June.

2. Veteran Her on-and-off service with the world’s most influential central bank date backs to the 70s where she started as a staff economist. She has also been president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, which means she has experience in both parts of the Fed system (Washington and the regional banks).

3. Dove She is seen as a dove on monetary policy; in other words, a policymaker who is less inclined to worry about inflation and more disposed to hold interest rates low and pump money into the economy to promote low unemployment.

4. Economist With a PhD in Economics from Yale under her belt, Mrs Yellen taught economics at Berkeley, Harvard and the London School of Economics. She is also a seasoned author, having published research on topics as disparate as youth gangs, single mothers, optimal monetary policy, wage and price rigidity, and trade.

5. Romantic Nothing less than the best for the Fed Chief as she is married to Nobel Prize-winning economist George Akerlof.  They first found love at the Fed board in 1977 when they were both economists. They married the following year and left the Fed to teach.  

6. Mother Yellen and her husband have one son, 32-year-old Robert, who is now Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Warwick. Their only son knew he wanted to go into economics by the time he was 13.

7. Herald One of few, Mrs Yellen saw the signs of trouble in the housing market early on. In 2007 she gave numerous warnings, including comparing the housing troubles with a 600-pound gorilla in the corner of the Fed’s meeting room. The housing market crashed later that year.

8. New Yorker She’s from Brooklyn and graduated from Fort Hamilton High School in Bay Ridge, the same school that produced NBA Hall of Famer Bernard King. More education highlights include her lecture notes from a class she took with Yale economist James Tobin—a Keynesian who also won a Nobel Prize. These notes were so clear that generations of graduate students relied on them as study guides.

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