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Gender Issues: Janet Yellen and Feminism Matters

by Elaine Schwartz    •    Oct 14, 2013    •    TIME TO READ: 2 minutes

Whether you agree or disagree with Janet Yellen’s policies and politics, do keep in mind that it helps women to have a woman lead the Fed.

Or, as economist Justin Wolfers said about his own daughter in a Bloomberg column, “I … plan to tell her that she, too, can grow up to become the most powerful economist in the world.”

A former UC Berkeley economics professor, Yellen has served as the Chair of Bill Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisors; at the Fed she has been on the Board of Governors, the President of the San Francisco Fed and the Fed’s vice chair.

Her policy inclinations? She has been described as Keynesian, believing that government can make a difference. In her own words:

“A decline in the unemployment rate could, for example, primarily reflect the exit from the labor force of discouraged job seekers.” As a result, she advocates continued focus on unemployment from the Fed instead of a more traditional concern with inflation. In important papers that she has authored, she expresses concern about low wages, saying that they can, contrary to longstanding economic theory, lead to more unemployment. Writing about welfare benefits received by unmarried women, she says, no they are not incentives to pursue single parenthood. Instead, because changing societal norms have encouraged the trend, single women who need help should receive it. If society wants to reduce births to unmarried parents, there are other better ways.

Focusing on gender issues, New Yorker columnist Jon Cassidy says, “Yellen isn’t Wonder Woman. But by dint of her intelligence, her technical expertise, her judgement, her creativity, her work ethic, and her willingness to coöperate with people rather than elbow them aside, she has risen to the top of the one of the most demanding professions there is. That, surely, makes her a role model for all women.” (My italics.)

When the day comes that Cassidy can say she is a role model for everyone which indeed she is, then we will have made the leap to female equality.

Sources and resources: In his New Yorker blogs, John Cassidy discussed Yellen as a woman and as an economist while Justin Wolfers presented his thoughts about Janet Yellen in a Bloomberg column. Providing context, this new film, “Money for Nothing” conveys an excellent history of the organization Yellen would lead. Finally, if you would like to compare Yellen’s background to other financial policy makers, in this econlife post we present an answer.

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