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Page 3 Profile: Janet Yellen, Chair of the Federal Reserve


New job?

Yes, and a big one. Yesterday Janet Yellen was sworn in as the Chair of the Federal Reserve. Heading up the world’s most influential central bank is arguably the most important job in global economy and the second most crucial job in the United States, after the president’s.

No pressure there, then…

What’s more she’s the first woman to hold this post, which means the world will be scrutinizing her every decision even more closely. Yellen’s primary task will be orchestrating the winding down of the Washington-based bank’s bond-buying stimulus programme without damaging the fragile economy of the United States.

Yikes, I hope she knows her stuff.

Judging by her CV she’s pretty well qualified. Originally from Brooklyn, New York, Yellen, 67, graduated from Brown University in 1967 and received her PhD in economics from Yale four years later. She has taught at Harvard Law School and the London School of Economics, but her big break came in 1994 when she was appointed as a member of the board of governors of the Federal Reserve. Then, in 1997 she was made Chair of Bill Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers.

So I guess she saw the financial crash coming a mile off…

She did foresee the possibility of a property market bubble back in 2005, but not the scale of the subsequent financial crisis. Yellen has a long academic record of focusing on the human impact of unemployment and is known on Wall Street as a “dove” as opposed to a “hawk” given her stance that unemployment is a bigger problem than inflation.

Could her appointment pave the way for a female US president?

It’s possible. But Professor Andrew Rose, who taught with her at Berkeley, has pointed out that the fact Yellen has broken a “glass ceiling” should not detract from what she does: “She is the most qualified person in the world for this job,” he said. “The fact that she’s a woman is an additional plus but it’s her suitability as the next Fed chairman that I think people should concentrate on.”