On Dec. 1, 2020, Janet Yellen was nominated by Joe Biden to join the Presidential Cabinet as the United States Secretary of the Treasury. The Senate Finance Committee voted unanimously to nominate her on Jan. 22, 2021, and she was confirmed by the Senate on Jan. 26, 2021. She was sworn in by Vice President Kamala Harris the next day.
Yellen is the first woman to hold the position of Secretary of the Treasury and the first person in the U.S. to serve as the leader in all three of the following departments: the Treasury Department, the U.S. Federal Reserve, and the Council of Economic Advisors.
As Secretary of the Treasury, Yellen will operate over the U.S. Treasury, which is tasked with producing the U.S. currency in the form of coins and paper money. The agency is also responsible for collecting taxes and operating over tax revenue through the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Additionally, the Treasury manages the U.S. debt and advises the president on maintaining a strong economy and financial system while also ensuring job security for Americans.
In this position, Yellen hopes to combat the COVID-19 economic recession, which has caused the loss of over 10 million U.S. jobs, and rebuild the strong U.S. economy, focusing on American workers and the lower class. She also hopes to address the numerous wealth and wage inequalities present in the global economy and support the Biden Administration’s climate plan through economic support.
Yellen was born on August, 13, 1946 in Brooklyn, New York to a middle class Jewish family where her mother was a schoolteacher and her father was a family doctor. She graduated, valedictorian, from Fort Hamilton High School and received an undergraduate degree in Economics from Brown University in 1967. She then received her Ph.D. from Yale University in 1971.
While working at the Federal Reserve in 1977, Yellen met her future husband, George Akerlof, an economist who has been awarded the Nobel Prize in Economic Science.. He currently is a professor at Georgetown University and an Emeritus Professor at Berkeley University. Yellen and Akerlof were married in 1978 and have one son, Robert Akerlof, an economist and current professor at the University of Warwick.
After receiving her Ph.D. from Yale, Yellen worked as an assistant professor at Harvard University until 1976. After this, she was recruited to join the Federal Reserve Board of Governors as part of the economist staff. Later on, Yellen became a professor at multiple prestigious universities like the London School of Economics and the Haas School of Business at Berkeley University.
In 1994, then U.S. President, Bill Clinton, nominated Yellen to join the Federal Reserve Board of Governors. The Federal Reserve, the Central Bank of the United States, is the body that operates over the U.S. money supply and controls Nationwide interest rates through monetary policy.
In 1999, Clinton appointed Yellen to the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA), where she became the second female chairperson. The CEA advises the President on economic, fiscal, and monetary policy on both the nationwide and global scale. As Chair of the CEA, she focused on the gender wage gap, a problem still rampant in the Global economy.
She then returned to Berkeley and worked there until 2004. Afterward, Yellen was appointed as the President of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco (FRBSF). The Federal Reserve consists of 12 regional banks around the U.S., of which FRBSF is the 12th district and the largest by geographic area. In this position, Yellen warned about the housing bubble and subprime lending, problems that would eventually cause the Great Recession in 2008. She served until 2010, then rejoined the National Federal Reserve Board of Directors, but as Vice Chair, nominated by President Barack Obama. As Vice Chair, her main focus was advocating for monetary policy that reduced unemployment.
Obama then nominated Yellen for Chair of the Federal Reserve, and she became the first female Chair of the Fed, serving a four-year term from 2014-2018. As Chair, she had to deal with the continuing aftermath of the Great Recession. Yellen was extremely successful, and reduced the unemployment rate from 6.7% to 4.1%, the lowest in 17 years. She also steered the rise of the stock market and kept prices and the interest rate steady.
In 2018, she was replaced in her position by President Donald Trump's appointee, Jerome Powell.
Throughout her career, Yellen’s work has focused on reducing U.S. unemployment and protecting the jobs of workers and the lower class. She plans to continue this focus into her position as Secretary of the Treasury. Her main focus, however, will be on mending the damaged economy caused by COVID-19.
She plans to patch the economy through large stimulus packages already being distributed, like the 1.9 trillion dollar American Rescue Plan Act. She also hopes to provide relief to low-income communities and communities of color who have been affected by systemic racism and disproportionately affected by the pandemic. With other measures, such as a Payroll Support Program (PSP), Yellen envisions a full return to employment by 2022.
Another one of her focuses will be adhering to the Biden Administration’s climate policy. Yellen has stated that climate change can have a significant effect on the stability of the financial system. To combat this, she proposes solutions such as identifying climate investments and facilitating the collection of financial risks posed by climate change.
Yellen has also committed to combating wealth inequalities head-on. She has stated that a “K-shaped” recovery is necessary, arguing that increased focus on ensuring access to financial resources for lower-income Americans can also help the economy grow. Yellen has already approved a minimum corporate tax that would hold large corporations accountable. She hopes for this tax to evade other taxes by making a single, minimum tax that every company would have to follow.
Yellen is seen as a trailblazer in the economics field by women and men around the world. In a recent statement about Yellen’s confirmation as the first female Secretary of the Treasury, Senator Chuck Schumer said, “At the Treasury Department, there are long hallways where portraits hang of all 77 Treasury Secretaries—all men, all the way back to Alexander Hamilton. I'm thrilled to vote for Janet Yellen today and add the first portrait of a woman to that hallway.”