Fiona Greig, global head of Investor Research and Policy, sought an inspirational story to listen to while running or cycling. She found it in Yellen: The Trailblazing Economist Who Navigated an Era of Upheaval (2022), by Jon Hilsenrath, a senior writer for the Wall Street Journal.
“I’m fascinated by female economists who end up having extraordinary careers,” Greig said. “Historically, economics was not a great professional home for women. After obtaining a PhD from Yale, Yellen worked as an assistant professor at Harvard, but she didn’t get tenure. It’s captivating to learn how she navigated and ascended in her career.”
Yellen is the only person to have held the top three economic roles in government: She has served as chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers (1997–1999), chair of the Federal Reserve (2014–2018), and since January 2021, she is the 77th successor to Alexander Hamilton as secretary of the U.S. Treasury. She is the first woman to hold two of these roles.
Yellen’s intellectual footprint on the world is vast. She first argued for the 2% inflation target, now widely adopted. She elevated the importance of labor market dynamics and unemployment in monetary policy making.
“Women ask different research questions,” Greig said. “They think differently about the world, and it really matters that they’re in positions of leadership and economic policymaking.”
Yellen is married to George Akerlof, a Nobel prize-winning economist; this power couple also seems to have split family work down the middle and equally supported their two careers through multiple cross-country moves. “It’s awe-inspiring, what they have accomplished—especially in combination with their status as a model for dual-career families,” Greig said.