Gaps in Equal Pay and Economic Growth: A Briefing with Dr. Janet Yellen

Dr. Janet Yellen during the discussion on economic growth and equal pay.
Dr. Janet Yellen during the discussion on economic growth and equal pay. | Photograph by Kristoffer Tripplaar

“We need to figure out a way to attract women to economics,” declared Dr. Janet Yellen, Chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (2014-2018).

On Tuesday, April 16 at Meridian International Center, Yellen denounced implicit discrimination in pay and opportunities by gender to guests who were in attendance at a briefing moderated by Kimberly Adams of Marketplace. In her remarks, sexual harassment was also underlined as a pervasive problem. “A culture change is required,” said Yellen, pointing to the lack of role models and a healthy work-life balance for women, particularly within business, academia, and economics-based professions.

In front of an audience of over 30 senior diplomats, Yellen also recognized the Federal Reserve’s historic independence from politics, which has recently come into question. Yellen pointed to the president’s criticisms of the actions of the current Fed Chair Jerome Powell, which she indicated show potential for long-term politicization of the Federal Reserve. Presidential nominations due to political support, explained Yellen, are not a tradition of the Federal Reserve and may damage policy and collegiality within the organization.

In addressing the current international political-economic climate, Yellen highlighted the many uncertainties for multinational businesses. With developments such as Brexit exerting influence, both the U.S. and the global economic system have seen slowing growth, with China slowing more than expected. Yellen warned that this could provoke a U.S. recession.

However, according to Yellen, the only employment metric that currently reflects any concern about the job market itself within the U.S. is prime age labor force participation; Yellen explained that the rate has been in decline as a trend in the last two decades due to technological change, globalization, and a downward pressure on wages. Unfortunately, it is not clear that the rate will go up.

Yellen is currently Distinguished Fellow in Residence for Economic Studies at The Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy at the Brookings Institution. The foreign diplomatic corps had the opportunity to listen to more of her thoughts on issues including the measurement of productivity in evolving economy, global fears of a future fiscal crisis, concerns about aging populations around the world, among other relevant topics. Through the new Meridian Center for Diplomatic Engagement, Meridian creates opportunities like Insights @ Meridian to accelerate collaboration between the international diplomatic corps and U.S. public and private sector leaders to cooperate on solutions to global economic and security issues.

This program was generously supported by the Bernstein Family Foundation.

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The Bernstein Family Foundation

Project summary

Gaps in Equal Pay and Economic Growth: A Briefing with Dr. Janet Yellen | April 2019
Number of Attendees: 35
Regions: East Asia and Pacific, Europe and Eurasia, South and Central Asia, Western Hemisphere
Impact Areas: Business and Trade, Empowering Women and Girls, Foreign Policy
Program Areas: Convening
Partners: Individuals/Donors, Private Sector
Dr. Janet Yellen during the discussion on economic growth and equal pay.