Yellen would not only be the first woman to head the U.S. central bank; she also would be the first woman ever to head a major central bank anywhere in the world.
Yellen was born in Brooklyn and graduated from Brown University in 1967 with highest honors in economics. She received her doctorate in economics in 1971 from Yale, where she studied under the Nobel Prize-winning economist James Tobin. In a 1997 interview with Business Week magazine, Tobin described Yellen as having "a genius for expressing complicated arguments simply and clearly."
She was an assistant professor at Harvard University from 1971 to 1976 and then worked as an economist at the Federal Reserve in Washington from 1977 to 1978. She met her husband, George Akerlof, in a Fed cafeteria. The two worked together for many years on the Berkeley faculty. Akerlof shared a Nobel in economics in 2001 with Joseph E. Stiglitz and A. Michael Spence.
Yellen was known as a pragmatist in her economic research, which ranged from studies on urban gang behavior to currency problems facing Germany after its reunification.