Janet Yellen, current vice chair of the Federal Reserve and possible nominee to run the central bank when Ben Bernanke retires, has been the subject of sexist punditry since her name was first batted around for the position. A report from The Washington Post's Neil Irwin on Tuesday shows that same sexism is coming from inside the White House. Irwin interviewed many who have worked with Yellen and found that her leadership style doesn't mesh with what the White House wants. She's too independent, prepared, and concerned about unemployment.
According to Irwin, the White House wants somebody more "manic." Larry Summers, the other candidate being floated, could fit that bill. He's known for his off-color, sexist remarks.
Irwin notes that Yellen chose a more independent path when she became vice chair in 2010. Instead of being Bernanke's emissary, she became "her own intellectual force within the organization." The White House wants a "team player." Yellen is "cautious" when making decisions and often prepares her remarks for meetings in advance. The White House prefers a more fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants philosophy, apparently. And as far as actual policy goes, Obama is very concerned with keeping an eye on potential bubbles. Yellen doesn't ignore potential bubbles, but she is more concerned with keeping actual unemployment rates down.
Reactions to Irwin's post have been generally along the lines of "seriously?" Most were frustrated because the White House's case against Yellen is just a list of qualities that would be seen as positive if she were a man. Matt O'Brien at The Atlantic can't wrap his head around why Yellen's leadership style would be a problem:
She's too independent. She's too prepared. Is this a joke?— Matt O'Brien (@ObsoleteDogma) August 20, 2013
The takeaways, for women trying to make it to the top: show less leadership & be less prepared.— Matt O'Brien (@ObsoleteDogma) August 20, 2013
Ned Resnikoff at MSNBC is similarly confused:
Today we learned that Janet Yellen is too cautious. Also, pre-2008 financial deregulation is insufficiently her fault.— Ned Resnikoff (@resnikoff) August 20, 2013
And Julia Ioffe at The New Republic gets at the main reason these revelations make Obama look pretty bad:
It's so hard for ladies to fit in in the Brobama world. http://t.co/flK2bf0zB9— Julia Ioffe (@juliaioffe) August 20, 2013
According to Irwin, Yellen doesn't bop from meeting to meeting, joking around like former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. She didn't become Bernanke's mouthpiece — she states her own ideas. She just isn't one of the bros.
The Atlantic Wire noted last week that Obama's pick for Fed chair has become Obama's sexism test. Irwin's report is doing nothing to help him pass it. Meanwhile, endorsements for Yellen keep rolling in. Over 30 law and economics professors wrote to the president on Monday urging him to pick Yellen. Even Senator Pat Roberts came out in support of Yellen Tuesday (making him the first Republican senator to do so). Of her competition, he said, "I wouldn't want Larry Summers to mow my yard."