Currently, Janet Yellen isn't being vetted to be the next Fed chair when Bernanke likely retires in January. Larry Summers, the other likely candidate, is being vetted (according to CNBC). This could be because Yellen was recently confirmed by the Senate in 2010 to be Fed vice chair and already has to make financial disclosures to the government (which revealed this year that she has a stamp collection worth $15,000). But Yellen, according to sources who spoke with the Wall Street Journal, is downplaying her chances of becoming the first woman to lead the Federal Reserve.
The Journal reports, "Ms. Yellen has indicated to some associates that she sees herself as the underdog and is uncomfortable with the contentious public spectacle that the succession has become, according to people who have spoken to her." The succession certainly has been contentious and a spectacle. Many have weighed in on who should be the next Fed chair — a group of Democratic senators, many economists, and women's groups are pushing for Yellen. Yellen's detractors have questioned her "toughness" and "gravitas."
Summers is said to be Obama's top pick for the spot. A White House official told the Journal that Obama isn't interviewing Fed chair candidates because he "has all of the information he needs" to make a decision. In light of speculation that Obama will indeed pick Summers, women's groups are getting more vocal in their support for Yellen, illustrating again that the choice for Fed chair will be a sexism test for Obama. Shaunna Thomas, co-founder of D.C-based women's advocacy group UltraViolet, told Politico Wednesday,
There’s a coalition of organizations working to make sure that those people who are opposed to Summers and like Yellen have a coordinated way of reflecting that to the president. Talk of a Larry Summers nomination is an affront to women not only because he’s a terrible candidate but also because Janet Yellen is an excellent candidate.
NOW President Terry O'Neill claims Summers is "a sexist who isn’t that good at his job." Most criticisms of Summers stem from comments he made in 2005 as president of Harvard University. When speaking about diversity in science and engineering, Summers suggested that women might not have the "intrinsic aptitude" to succeed in careers in those fields.
Earlier this year, Yellen was thought to be the frontrunner to lead the Fed. Now comments Obama has made in support of Summers, both publicly and privately, have Yellen supporters worried. Nancy Hopkins, an MIT biologist who was present when Summers made his fateful comments in 2005, told Politico that if Obama nominates Summers, “he sends a message loud and clear that he just doesn’t get it.”
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.