If Janet Yellen's nomination to head the Federal Reserve gets the nod from the Senate, she would be the first woman to head the most powerful central bank in the world. That would make the Brooklyn, N.Y.-born economist arguably the most influential woman on the planet, probably surpassing other notables such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The 67-year-old vice chair of the Fed is the first woman to even be considered to lead it, and the first nominated to lead a major central bank—one of the highest glass ceilings remaining for women. Her elevation would mean that three of the jobs with most impact on the global economy: chairman of the Fed; chancellor of Germany and managing director of the International Monetary Fund, all traditionally male domains, are now held by women.
It's a safe bet that when Forbes is compiling its next list of the world's most powerful women, Yellen, who did not appear in the top 100 this year, will be challenging the top five. Her predecessor, Ben Bernanke, was ranked the sixth most powerful person in the world this year, just behind the pope.
Yellen, like Merkel and the IMF's Christine Lagarde, does not seem to have needed quotas or tokenism to achieve highly. She is the most accurate forecaster on the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), according to a Wall Street Journal analysis, and the longest-serving official at the Fed, having worked there for around four decades. She has been credited with being one of the first to call the cheap credit-fueled U.S. housing bubble in 2005, while head of the San Francisco Fed.
Yellen's background also includes a Ph.D. in economics from Yale University; a professorship at the University of California, Berkeley, since 1985; the post of president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco (2004 to 2010); chair of President Bill Clinton's Council of Economic Advisers (1997 to 1999); a member of the Fed's Board of Governors (1994 to 1997); and many other roles at the highest levels of economic study.
For all her credentials, Yellen isn't far removed from more average pursuits.