Janet Yellen's Real Victory

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Janet Yellen, if confirmed by the Senate, will become the first woman to run the Federal Reserve in its 100-year history.

This is a truly remarkable achievement, as the central banking world is still largely a male-dominated one.

As the New York Times points out, no woman has ever led the Fed or the Treasury in the U.S. She is one of only two women on the six-member Federal Reserve board. No woman sits on the 23-member policy board of the European Central Bank, according to the report. There are none on the policy board of the Bank of England either and just one on the policy board of the Bank of Japan.

But let us not reduce Yellen's nomination to a statistic, even if it is a new record.

Truth be told, I bristled at the initial suggestion of writing a story about her breaking the glass ceiling.

After all the woman is vice-chair of the Federal Reserve. She formerly headed the Council of Economic Advisers. She is such an eminent economist that the discussion of her gender trivializes her nomination.

Yellen's true achievement, in my opinion, is that her nomination has not been about her gender but about her undeniable qualifications for what is arguably the most important job in finance.

In a way, I am glad she was President Obama's second choice, vetted only after the controversial Larry Summers withdrew himself from consideration. I am glad she was not some token nominee meant to fill a slot so that the Obama Administration can talk about diversity in government.

I am heartened to find that the instant reaction to her nomination has been a nearly universal acknowledgement of her outstanding track record in forecasting, her analytical rigor and her depth of experience and not some patronizing story about how she managed her family life, though I suspect we will soon see more of those.

The fact that she has come so far means that Yellen broke a lot of barriers a long time ago. Women in the field of economics is a rarity in itself, as Gillian Tett points out in an article in the Financial Times.

"Rising through the ranks of a central bank requires extremely long hours over many years. That is tough to combine with family life, particularly in Europe where bureaucrats do not hop in and out of public service. Having a PhD in economics also tends to be de rigueur these days. However, as a 2011 study for the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco notes, there has been a 'persistent underrepresentation of women in economics' in recent years at universities," she wrote.

What Yellen did, to channel my inner Sheryl Sandberg, was "lean in." This is a brilliant woman who had a deep passion for the field of economics and devoted herself to it, both in academia and at the Federal Reserve, long hours and the old boys' club notwithstanding.

And like good economists who rely on empirical evidence to frame their analyses, she has let her work and her track record speak for her.

To be clear, I am not making light of the struggles women face every day to rise to the top. As a new mom, I am painfully aware of them, which is why I am all the more in awe of people like Yellen.

She knew what she wanted and went after it, which is a hallmark of success, irrespective of gender.

-- Written by Shanthi Bharatwaj in New York.

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