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HindustanTimes Tue,21 Oct 2014

Yellen pick for Fed chairman a new milestone for women in power jobs

AFP  Washington, October 10, 2013
First Published: 09:09 IST(10/10/2013) | Last Updated: 09:53 IST(10/10/2013)

Janet Yellen, nominated by President Barack Obama to run the Federal Reserve, will be the first woman to hold what Obama has called one of the world's top policy-making jobs.

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The move reduces by one the number of top power positions in the US government that women have not held -- a list that includes president, vice president and head of the Supreme Court.

But while the nomination marks a first for the US central bank, the United States is hardly a trailblazer.

CentralBankNews.info counts 14 women among the 180-odd central bank chiefs worldwide.

Argentina and Russia have named women to run their central banks, as have Cameroon and Botswana in Africa, and Argentina, Honduras and El Salvador in Latin America.

In the United States, women have been at the top level of central bank policy-making only since 1978, when Nancy Teeters joined the very masculine world of the Fed's board of governors and the Federal Open Market Committee.

Since then, around a dozen women have joined the Fed, either as governors or as chairs of one of its 12 regional reserve banks.

Yellen has done both. She was a governor from 1994 to 1997, and president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco from 2004 to 2010. Since then, she has been Fed vice chairman.

But the US central bank remains mainly a province of men. One female member of the board of governors, Elizabeth Duke, resigned at the end of August.

Another, Sarah Raskin, will soon depart for a job at the US Treasury. That will leave Yellen, Esther George, president of the Fed's Kansas City branch, and Sandra Pianalto at the Cleveland branch.

The process of choosing a replacement for Ben Bernanke as the foremost monetary policy maker in the US, and indeed the world, was steeped in gender politics.

Yellen was pitched against the man believed to be the White House favorite -- former Treasury secretary Larry Summers, who, like Yellen, is a brilliant economist but often a magnet for ire from women.

"Janet Yellen is clearly is the best person for the job -- male or female," the National Organization for Women said on its website when it called on Obama to back her.

"But in addition, she would be the first woman Fed Chair and provide better gender balance to the circle of the president's top advisers -- something that is sorely missing in his second administration."

Sheila Bair, a former chairwoman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the US bank regulator, said there was "a horrible whispering campaign in Washington" against Yellen that is "tinged with sexist arguments."

As if he were aware that he was walking on eggshells, Obama goofed early on when talking about the two candidates, referring to both as "mister" before embarrassingly correcting himself to say "Mrs." Yellen.

When Summers -- who faced strong opposition from Democrats and Republicans in the Senate, which must approve the nomination -- finally pulled out, the path became clear for Yellen.


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