When Janet Yellen takes over the reins of the Federal Reserve on Monday, she will become one of the most powerful women in the world — a historic achievement that she has yet to fully embrace.
Her status has been trumpeted by others — she is featured in a Microsoft commercial “celebrating the heroic women of 2013” and heralded by glossy magazine Marie Claire as having “triumphed over the haters” — but Yellen has been reticent about the role that her sex has played in her four-decade career. She has even instructed staff members that her new title be simply “chair,” rather than “chairwoman.”
This is not the first time Yellen has broken through gender barriers in a field notorious for its sharp-elbowed machismo. She was the only woman in her PhD class at Yale University. Two dozen economists earned doctorates from Yale University in 1971, according to the school. Yellen was the only woman.
Yellen’s silence is a reminder that the workplace can still be treacherous terrain for many women. She didn’t speak out when President Obama mistakenly referred to her as “Mr. Yellen,” nor when a few snarked that she wore the same outfit to her confirmation hearing and nomination ceremony.