The entire world is watching her every move. One flinch and the stock market could plummet. One wrong move and the global economy could veer back toward recession.
Unsurprisingly given those responsibilities, Janet Yellen was just named the most influential person in the world by Bloomberg Markets. As Chair of the U.S. Federal Reserve, Yellen is in now steering the policy-making committee charged with raising interest rates after a period of unparalleled monetary support for weak U.S. and global economies.
She and her colleagues at the Fed decided to hold off raising rates in September, a delay that invited a firestorm of debate worldwide. Economists now largely expect Yellen and the Federal Open Market Committee to wait until December, if not next year, before raising rates. But they’ll keep listening to every word she says for hints that the timetable might change.
As the world watches and waits, here are 11 things you should know about the most powerful woman on the planet:
1. Not only is she the first woman to head the Federal Reserve, she is the first female to lead a major central bank anywhere in the world.
2. She’s got quite the resume. Before she was appointed chairwoman of the Federal Reserve, Yellen served for three years as vice chair, ran the San Francisco Fed for six years, ran the Council of Economic Advisors (CEA) for two years, served for three years on the Fed Board of Governors and was an economist at the board in the late 1970s.
3. Her husband, George Akerlof, is an accomplished economist, too. In 2001 he won the Nobel Prize in Economics, sharing the award with two other economists. Their son, Robert Akerlof, is also an economist.
4. Yellen and Akerlof have a stamp collection that’s estimated to be worth between $15,001 and $50,000.
5. Yellen has taught at the London School of Economics, Harvard University and University of California, Berkeley.
6. Yellen grew up in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn and was valedictorian of her class at Fort Hamilton High School. She also served as editor-in-chief of the school newspaper, and in that position she was in charge of interviewing the valedictorian. So she interviewed herself. In the article, she jokingly wrote, “I understand that you are a versatile, attractive, talented senior.”
7. When Yellen graduated high school in 1963, she won the Phi Beta Kappa award, the Mayor’s Committee Scholastic Award, the math award, the science award and the overall English Department prize. She was also a member of the honor roll, the boosters club, the psychology club and the history club. She then went on to major in economics at Pembroke, Brown University’s women’s college.
8. She received her Ph.D. in economics from Yale University, studying under Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz. In a 2013 New York Times op-ed titled, “Why Janet Yellen, Not Larry Summers, Should Lead the Fed,” Stiglitz described Yellen as “one of the best students I have had in 47 years of teaching at Columbia, Princeton, Stanford, Yale, M.I.T., and Oxford.”
9. While on beach vacations with her husband and son, she typically brings a suitcase full of books on economics. According to her longtime friend and fellow economist Christina Romer, none of the family members actually go in the water — they sit on the sand and read and write.
10. She’s not the highest paid employee in her own organization. Yellen, who earns $201,700 a year, makes less than at least 113 other Fed employees. But don’t feel too bad for her — she’s a multimillionaire. In 2013, she and her husband had asset holdings worth $5.3 million to $14.1 million.