Tomorrow, the Federal Reserve decides whether the U.S. economy is robust enough to raise interest rates. The woman at the helm — Janet Yellen — is arguably one of the most powerful women in the the world.
But in some ways, she's not so different from you or me.
1. She comes from a working class family
Yellen grew up in the working class neighborhood of Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. Her father was a family doctor working out of their home and her mother was an elementary school teacher. Yellen attended Fort Hamilton public high school, where she was editor-in-chief of the newspaper and a member of the psychology club.
2. She hasn’t always known what she wanted to do with her life
Yellen started as a philosophy major at Brown University but switched to economics after taking a few courses. She's been an economics junkie ever since. In a 1997 interview with Brown Alumni Magazine, Yellen said she was initially shocked to learn how much influence the Fed has on the economy.
3. She met the love of her life at work
Thirty-eight percent of Americans admit to having dated a coworker. One-third have reported marrying a coworker. Yellen has done both. Yellen met her husband economist George Akerlof while both were working at the Fed. Akerlof, a Nobel laureate, wrote in his autobiography, “We liked each other immediately and decided to get married. Not only did our personalities mesh perfectly, but we have also always been in all but perfect agreement about macroeconomics. Our lone disagreement is that she is a bit more supportive of free trade than I.”
4. She can't always predict the market
Last year, Yellen's Fed released a report that called biotechnology and social-media stock valuations "substantially stretched." The Nasdaq biotech ETF is up 40% since the Fed made the call on July 15, 2014. Shares of Facebook are up 40% and LinkedIn is up 24%, though Twitter shares are down nearly 30%.
In June, economist Burton Malkiel penned an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal advising her not to make such bold calls, as they do more harm than good.
5. She's worried that technology is making us narrow-minded
Yellen thinks we use technology to censor our view on the world. She told graduates during her NYU commencement speech last year that technology “allows us to limit what voices we hear to the narrow range we find most agreeable.”
It's a similar sentiment to that expressed by filmmaker Gary Turk, who criticizes the world for trying to find our worth through technology. In a viral video that's been viewed more than 50 million times on YouTube, Turk says, “This media we call social is anything but, when we open up our computers and it’s our doors that we shut. All this technology we have is just an illusion -- community, companionship, a sense of inclusion.”