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For release on delivery
9:00 a.m. EDT
October 30, 2014

Welcoming Remarks by
Janet L. Yellen
Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System
at the
“National Summit on Diversity in the Economics Profession”
A Conference Sponsored by the American Economic Association and the
Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System
Washington, D.C.

October 30, 2014

I am very pleased that the American Economic Association (AEA) and the
Federal Reserve Board have organized this conference on an important issue for our
In trying to raise awareness of diversity in the economics profession, I am aided
by the fact that economists are well acquainted with the concept of diversity from their
work. When conducting a survey, economists understand that the results will be more
meaningful when the diversity of the sample approaches the diversity of the population
being studied. In finance, we know that diversity is fundamentally important in
spreading risk. History shows that economies develop and become more stable through
diversification. Often, in the things economists study and the methods we use, diversity
is a good thing.
To cite another example, research by economists and other social scientists
supports the view that considering a diversity of perspectives and ideas leads to better
decisions in an organization. I believe decisions by the Federal Reserve Board and the
Federal Open Market Committee are better because of the range of views and
perspectives brought to the table by my fellow policymakers, and I have encouraged this
approach to decisionmaking at all levels and throughout the Fed System.
One way to promote diversity of ideas is to promote diversity among the people
we rely on for those ideas, including more than 300 Ph.D. economists who serve at the
Board and more than 400 serving at the Fed’s 12 Reserve Banks. At the Board, our
Office of Diversity and Inclusion coordinates this effort, but everyone involved in the
recruiting, hiring, management, and promotion of economists is engaged in it as well.

-2When I was Vice Chair, I knew that promoting diversity among Fed economists was a
priority for Chairman Bernanke, and it continues to be a priority for me.
In 1977, when I joined the Board staff, I was one of relatively few women
economists here. Since then, there have been significant gains in diversity at the Board
and throughout the System. The Federal Reserve is committed to achieving further
progress, and to better understanding the challenges to improving diversity throughout
the economics profession. As an employer, the Fed is very serious about meeting its
obligation to provide equal opportunity, and I also believe that diversity makes the Fed
more effective in carrying out its mission, for reasons such as the one I mentioned a
moment ago.
But this conference offers an important opportunity to investigate all of the
possible factors that influence the extent of diversity among economists at the Federal
Reserve and elsewhere, including those factors that are affecting the education and
advancement of economists everywhere in the United States.
As a longtime member of the AEA, I am proud of the work our association has
done to collect data and study diversity in the economics profession. Among the
questions raised by the AEA’s work on this topic is why relatively few women and
minorities seem to consider economics as a concentration in college. The evidence is
fairly clear that majoring in economics offers relatively high returns to college graduates
whether or not they pursue further education in economics. It is worth knowing, for
example, what undergrads who might consider concentrating in economics think about
the curriculum and the employment prospects for economics majors compared with what
those prospects actually are. To what extent might the lack of diversity among

-3economics majors reflect a more general need to make basic economics more relevant
and otherwise appealing to undergrads?
The AEA has also done important work documenting and investigating the “leaky
pipeline,” trying to determine why some groups are more likely to abandon economics
education and work before, and even after, receiving Ph.D.s. In reviewing the data on the
representation and advancement of certain groups in the profession, there are differences
in outcomes for women and minorities. To what extent are these disparities caused by
differences in the experiences of those groups or due to broader and more general
challenges faced in academia? Do the leaks from the pipeline that may be more
noticeable for some groups reflect a broader lack of opportunity in academia? When
economists delve into why there isn’t more diversity among them, they end up asking
about what is being taught in college, how economists are being trained in graduate
school, and other questions that bear on the health and the future of the economics
profession in general.
These are not idle questions. All of you know that there has been a fair amount of
public debate in recent years about the health of the economics profession, prompted in
part by the failure of many economists to comprehend the dire threats and foresee the
damage of the financial crisis. When the public asks whether economists did all they
could have to understand those threats, in part they are asking whether our profession did
enough over the years to test ideas and assumptions that turned out in some cases to have
been mistaken or misplaced. And part of that question is this one: Did the economics
profession recruit and promote the individuals best able to bring the energy, the fresh

-4insights, and the renewal that every field and every body of knowledge needs to remain
When this question is asked again someday, when economics is tested by future
challenges, I hope that our profession will be able to say that we have done all we could
to attract the best people and the best ideas. That, I believe, is the very worthy goal of
this conference, and I look forward to seeing it advanced by today’s discussions and by
the continuing commitment demonstrated by the AEA to diversity.
Thank you to those who organized the conference and to the distinguished
members of our profession who have come here today to take part in it.