WASHINGTON — Janet Yellen was sworn in Monday morning as the first woman chairman of the Federal Reserve, a move that shatters the glass ceiling for women everywhere and making her arguably the most powerful woman banker ever.
Yellen was sworn in by a fellow Fed governor, Daniel Tarullo, for a four-year term that ends on Feb. 3, 2018. Her term on the board of governors, should she choose to stay on after one or two terms, would end on Jan. 31, 2024.
President Barack Obama nominated Yellen last Oct. 9, but not without controversy as he spent the summer floating the name of his close economic adviser Larry Summers. A former Treasury secretary, Summers was to women a doubly insulting choice because he had been forced out as Harvard University's president for suggesting that women were inferior to men in the sciences.
But that Obama considered a friend over the candidate that most economists felt was the most qualified was the very definition of the glass ceiling women face in the workplace.
Yellen succeeds Ben Bernanke, whose term ended Friday. Yellen was at Bernanke's side as vice chair during the creation and extension of a controversial bond-buying program designed to stimulate the economy amid a sluggish recovery. It falls to her to complete the tapering off of these purchases of government and mortgage bonds, expected to take place throughout 2014.
Yellen may go down as the Fed chief that took away the punch bowl. The Fed's benchmark lending rate_ the federal funds rate_ has been near zero since December 2008. It will fall to her to begin raising this rate, which influences lending rates across the economy, in a way that does not crush economic recovery. She must balance that task with keeping inflation in check and preventing expectations of future inflation from rising.
In his final news conference, in December, Bernanke said he did not expect the Yellen Fed to begin raising interest rates until the middle of 2015.