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Hullabaloo


Friday, July 26, 2013

 
The Yellen-Summers decision: "driven by gender" does not mean what they think it means

by digby

This says it all:
Richard W. Fisher, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, said this year that if the president chose Ms. Yellen, the decision would be “driven by gender.”
I think most of us can see just how insulting that is to a woman of Yellen's qualifications. It's also really, really stupid. Amanda Marcotte says it best:
Oh, he admits she's qualified for the job, but hastened to add, "There are other capable people." Which seems to suggest that Obama should exhaust every male candidate before settling on a female one, a course of action that would not be "driven by gender" because men don't have a gender.
Exactly. It's so telling that men never seem to think that their preference for men in certain positions might have something to do with gender. Apparently, the fact that women make up half the population of the human species and yet men are still in at least 85% of the positions of power in the world is just a reflection of their superiority as individuals:
For years, economic policy making has been dominated by a small, close-knit group of men who have known one another since the Clinton administration, if not before. In addition to Mr. Summers, Mr. Geithner and Mr. Sperling, the group includes Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew; Daniel Tarullo, a Fed governor who has taken a leading role on financial regulation; and Jason Furman, currently nominated to be the head of the Council of Economic Advisers.

Numerous current and former administration officials have described the world as cloistered. A series of women who have worked alongside those men have ended their tenures saying that they felt excluded and ignored. Recent examples include Sheila C. Bair, who ran the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation during the financial crisis; Elizabeth Warren, who led the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau but was passed over for nomination as its first director in favor of a deputy, Richard Cordray; and Ms. Romer, who left the administration in 2010.

“I was always officially where I should be,” Ms. Romer said of her White House experience. “When there was a quick meeting on the phone, or the side meeting, that’s when you felt like maybe business was being done or maybe I was being left out of things.”

Similarly, Ms. Yellen clashed with Mr. Sperling during the Clinton administration, when she ran the Council of Economic Advisers and he the National Economic Council, with the two engaging in turf battles and Ms. Yellen at times feeling pushed out of important decision-making, colleagues at the time said.

Several former administration officials, who spoke about personnel policy only on the condition of anonymity, strongly disputed the idea that the White House was institutionally sexist, that Mr. Obama did not value the promotion of women or that women were excluded because of their gender.

But they acknowledged that women on the economic team had tended to hold advisory roles, rather than policy-making roles. They also said that women tended to be further to the left than the more centrist Rubinites that have generally prevailed in policy debates.
I don't know if listening to the women on his team would have made a difference, but listening to the Wall Street cabal he did listen to has not served us all that well. If he cares about the economy as much as he says he does, he might want to broaden his horizons.

The fact is that all the reasons the boys club thinks Yellen's personality isn't the right one for the Fed are just wrong. She's a much better match. Summers is a bull in a China shop who doesn't even have the discretion to keep his sexist assumptions about women scientists to himself in a roomful of women scientists. Unless they're willing to get rid of all the women who are involved with the Fed and economic policy, (and hey, maybe that's the plan) putting Summers in there is a recipe for disaster.

Given that both are highly experienced but one is a macho blabbermouth who can't get along with anyone and the other is a thoughtful, deliberate, careful person with a gift for finding consensus, you'd think this wouldn't be a question of gender at all. And the fact that it is, is frankly fairly shocking. Fed chairman is clearly no job for a blunderbuss like Larry Summers. Only an old boy network that simply wants to keep their own in power would even suggest such a thing.

President Obama has long been suspected of being wobbly on women's issues. His record is, at best, mixed. He clearly wants to leave a civil rights legacy with advances for LGBT citizens and inspirational leadership for people of color and I admire him for it. But he's got work to do with women. He should be seeking every opportunity to appoint qualified women to powerful positions. And when they are more qualified by dint of superior temperaments, there's really no excuse for him not to.

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