By, Community Works Social Justice Blogger, Becky Brinkerhoff
Photo: Google Images
With the replacement of Ben Bernacke on the horizon, President Obama must appoint a more than qualified candidate as the Chairman of the Federal Reserve. The New York Times calls this the single most important economic policy decision Obama will make in his second term. The choice has come down to one candidate: Janet Yellen—the current Fed. Vice Chairwoman of the Board of Governors.
It’s not her snow-white hair that has earned Federal Reserve Chair candidate Janet Yellen the title of “dovish”. The Wallstreet Journal took at look at the forecasting records of the top policy makers found at the Fed. They divided them into two categories: Hawks and Doves. Hawks are those who claim that the Fed. is doing too much to fight unemployment. Doves are those who claim it is doing too little. With a focus on the lowering unemployment rate (job creation) instead of lowering the inflation rate, Yellen is referred to as too “dovish” for the job.
However, if one looks at the Wallstreet Journal’s entire report, he or she will see that the “doves” made much more accurate forecast than the “hawks”. So, perhaps, a “dove” is what the economy needs. And who is the front running “dove”? Janet Yellen.
Yellen’s collaborative leadership still has earned her perhaps the most disturbing opposing argument; the idea that she lacks “gravitas”—a term typically used to describe aggressive, male leadership. In less euphemistic terms, “gravitas” is equivalent to “balls”. Some claim that Yellen lacks the balls for the job.
But does she lack the balls—excuse me—“gravitas” to become the first Federal Reserve Chairwoman? In short, no. Yellen’s credits include distinguished academic work, leader of the Council of Economic Advisers, six years as president of the San Francisco Fed, and a record of working effectively with colleagues at the Board of Governors. Paul Krugman—a Nobel Peace Prize winning economist—says, “She’s the best-qualified person in America to take over when Ben Bernanke steps down as chairman.”
Krugman also asks, “Would anyone suggest that a man with those credentials was somehow unqualified for office?” My educated guess is no.
However, it doesn’t seem that her credentials matter. Another common argument for the opposition of Yellen claims that picking her would be “driven by gender”. Her credibility means nothing and her gender means everything. The New York Sun, in an article titled “The Female Dollar”, even went as far to say that electing Yellen would make the American dollar merely “gender-backed.”
Feminist organizations are mobilizing not merely in support Yellen, but in protest of her past opponent—Larry Summers. Though he dropped out of the race earlier this week, it is important to take a look at who she was up against. It wasn’t simply the difference in gender that had thousands of calls flooding into democratic congress members’ offices.
Summers had a major sexist slip up that caused him to resign from his position at Harvard University. Summers said at a conference about bringing more diversity to the science and engineering, that the lack of women in these fields is due to “the special case of science and engineering, there are issues of intrinsic aptitude, and particularly of the variability of aptitude, and that those considerations are reinforced by what are in fact lesser factors involving socialization and continuing discrimination.” Women aren’t in the field because they lack the “intrinsic aptitude”? Sounds similar to a woman not capable for a certain position because she lacks the “gravitas.”
Is she the only person who can do the job? No. But asking the question, “can a woman be chair of the Fed?” has absolutely no place in this discussion. No. Bad. Arguing that a female character lacks the “gravitas” to lead has no place in the discussion. Gender-based discrimination is, well, gender based discrimination. Despite how the wording is phrased or how subtle, sexism is sexism. And sexism should have no place in the discussion, not with importance of a capable candidate for these upcoming years.
Janet Yellen is certainly capable.