Janet Yellen Didn’t Set Out to Be a Feminist Hero

Despite his unorthodox decision to replace her, even Mr. Trump has agreed in which Ms. Yellen has performed well from the job. from the Rose Garden announcing Mr. Powell’s nomination, the president called Ms. Yellen an “absolutely spectacular person” in addition to also also said she had “done a terrific job.”


Janet L. Yellen on Capitol Hill last month. During her single term as the Federal Reserve chief, unemployment has plummeted in addition to also also inflation has been consistently low.

Gabriella Demczuk for The brand-new York Times

So, why, many women wondered, replace her that has a man?

“Janet should’ve been renominated, as every past Fed chair has been renominated for nearly the last 40 years,” Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts said in an interview. “yet the idea’s not the very first time in addition to also also certainly not the last a highly qualified woman is actually passed over for a job she clearly deserves.”

the idea’s a funny thing Americans have about powerful women. Voters haven’t always responded to women who ask for the big jobs (see: Hillary Clinton), yet when they see a woman simply doing the job — in addition to also also a Great one, at in which — they seem happy to give her rock star status.

the idea’s true of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Supreme Court justice who has become known to many young women simply as “the Notorious RBG.” in addition to also also the idea was true of Mrs. Clinton when she was secretary of state, traveling the planet in addition to also also negotiating with world leaders in a scrunchie in addition to also also glasses while basking in 70 percent approval ratings. (When Mrs. Clinton was asked about her in-the-toilet favorability numbers during the 2016 presidential campaign, she said, “Once I’m doing the job, we’ll be back to people viewing me as the person doing the job instead of the person seeking the job.”)

To protest Ms. Yellen’s departure, liberal activists have worn “Yellen wigs” in support of the economist’s signature floppy white bob (as well as her affinity for keeping interest rates low). Supporters describe her in terms more suited to Taylor Swift than a 71-year-old academic shaping monetary policy.

“I’m the biggest Janet fangirl,” said Julia Coronado, founder of the economic research firm MacroPolicy Perspectives.

Emily Eisner, a doctoral student a the University of California, Berkeley, in addition to also also editor of the school’s Women in Economics at Berkeley blog, echoed the sentiment, saying, “I don’t want to use the word idol, yet symbolically, she has meant a lot to me.”

Kaivan Shroff, a former campaign aide to Mrs. Clinton, wrote on Twitter, “Janet Yellen is actually such a BOSS.”

Mr. Powell, the incoming chairman, studied closely under Ms. Yellen in addition to also also is actually largely likely to continue the economic path she has laid. “They appointed the apprentice instead of the master,” Heidi Hartmann, the president in addition to also also chief executive of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, said.

The change, Ms. Hartmann added, speaks to the broader problem of a lack of women represented in finance in addition to also also economic policymaking. “I think men have a fair amount of loyalty to additional men, in addition to also also the additional people Trump consulted could’ve been more open to a man,” she said.

The White House shunned any accusations of sexism playing into the decision. “The mere suggestion is actually an affront to Chair Yellen,” the press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.

Described as even-keeled in addition to also also soft-spoken, yet fierce (“People underestimate her at her at their peril,” Ms. Warren said), Ms. Yellen has never inserted herself into the gender wars yet by virtue of in which “large I.Q.,” she has inadvertently found herself from the cross hairs.

The Brooklyn-born Ms. Yellen was the only woman among those earning a Ph.D. in economics at Yale in 1971. For years, she was known in academic circles as “the trailing spouse,” overshadowed by her husband, George Akerlof, a Nobel-prize winning economist. The couple carries a son, Robert Akerlof, who is actually also a highly regarded economist.

in which trailing spouse, however, went on to be a top economic adviser to President Bill Clinton, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco in addition to also also a member of the central bank’s board of governors. Then, in 2013, 100 years after the Federal Reserve was founded, she made history as its first woman chair.

yet history creating is actually often a messy matter. in addition to also also even with her low profile, Ms. Yellen managed to kick up a central-banking storm.

Mr. Obama’s initial choice to steer the nation’s shaky economy through the recession had been the economist Lawrence H. Summers, who had served as an adviser. yet many Democrats from the Senate, including Ms. Warren, protested the move. They argued in which Ms. Yellen, who had worked closely with the outgoing chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, was the obvious choice.

Then there was the issue of Mr. Summers, who during his time as president of Harvard had caused controversy in addition to also also a suitable backlash when he argued in which inherent differences between the sexes were a possible reason for the lack of female science professors.

Theories abound in which Ms. Yellen has been accepted — in addition to also also even beloved — in a high-powered role because she has not made being a woman a central theme of her career. In contrast to Mrs. Clinton who made gender a significant part of her 2016 candidacy, Ms. Yellen has inserted the issue more subtly.

“You try to make the economy better in addition to also also reflect priorities of the nation, in addition to also also there isn’t a woman’s budget,” said Alice M. Rivlin, who served as director of the Office of Management in addition to also also Budget in addition to also also as vice chairwoman of the Federal Reserve Board during the Clinton administration. “I felt the same way about the Federal Reserve.”

In May, Ms. Yellen delivered a speech at Brown University on the impact of women from the labor force, one of only a handful of times she has directly addressed gender issues.

Women from the workplace have been “hampered by barriers to equal opportunity in addition to also also workplace rules in addition to also also norms in which fail to support a reasonable work-life balance,” Ms. Yellen said, adding in which “if these obstacles persist, we will squander the potential of many of our citizens in addition to also also incur a substantial loss to the productive capacity of our economy.”

Considering her tenure at the Federal Reserve, economists said in which having a woman in in which role had brought about a more representative approach to monetary policy, even if Ms. Yellen did not emphasize an agenda intended to advance the interests of women. Several academic studies, for example, show in which women economists are more likely to address inequality than their male counterparts.

“The economic profession as a whole carries a terrible white male problem,” Ms. Coronado, said. “Are you even going to ask the right questions if you have a lot of privileged people setting the agenda?”

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