In 2021, United States President Joe Biden made history with his nomination of Janet Yellen to serve as Secretary of the Treasury Department. Yellen is the first woman to hold this post, and she is doing so at a time when the American economy is trying to recover from the one-two punch of the global trade war and the coronavirus pandemic.
The confirmation of Secretary Yellen by Congress was swift and resolute; after all, she has previously served in the Federal Reserve Bank, and she is a highly respected economist who favors a fresh approach of the New Keynesian School when it comes to monetary intervention and policy. For many women who work in the financial sector, the appointment of Secretary Yellen to the Treasury Department is a hopeful sign that better things lie ahead with regard to job and income equality.
It almost doesn’t feel right to admit that the financial industry is still a boy’s club in the 21st century, but that is the unfortunate reality we are living in. Getting into the sector is not difficult; after all, finance is an occupational field that keeps more than seven million people employed. The problem for women is breaking through the corporate glass ceiling and making a name for themselves in the industry.
As with everything else in life, making the most out of a career in finance will require education, dedication, hard work, and perseverance. These are the factors that were considered by President Biden and Congress when appointing Treasury Secretary Yellen, but there is no question that women are being held to higher standards. When you look at Wall Street CEOs who lead the most prominent investment banking firms, you will find that many of them came up through the ranks. In the case of women who secure a boardroom spot, many of them have completed graduate programs in economics. What this tells us about Wall Street culture is that the boy’s club mentality is still there; men who are adept at making connections and thriving in a fraternity-like atmosphere will have a much easier path to advancement and career success.
In a 2020 interview with a high-level female financial advisor, financial technology firm Purshology summarized what it takes to make it in this field: Clear knowledge and understanding of products and services that can generate money. In the case of a personal finance planner who works independently, this does not mean shoehorning clients into products offered by companies paying the juiciest commissions; what it really means is paying close attention to client needs and matching them with investment horizons that make sense.
Secretary Yellen is leading the U.S. Treasury because she has clear knowledge and understanding of the American economy. Striking the right balance between capitalistic models and the needs of American families is no easy feat, but Secretary Yellen has demonstrated that she is the woman for the job because of her education and experience. Knowledge and expertise will always be the best tools available to women who wish to smash the glass ceiling in the financial sector.