How Janet Yellen keeps breaking glass ceilings

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Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Ursula von der Leyen’s vaccine distribution decisions in the EU prompt criticism, Jessica Alba’s Honest Co. may go public, and Janet Yellen is the most prepared woman in Washington. Go get your Monday.

Today’s guest essay comes to us from Fortune politics reporter Nicole Goodkind:

The most prepared woman in Washington. Janet Yellen, the newly-minted Treasury secretary, is a serial glass-ceiling breaker. She was the only woman in her class to earn an economics Ph.D. at Yale University, and was for some time the sole female economics professor at Harvard University. She served under President Bill Clinton as chair of the Council of Economic Advisers (a rare non-first moment; she was the second woman to serve in that role). In 2014, she was confirmed as the first female chair of the Federal Reserve, under President Barack Obama. Now she’s the first woman to hold the head job at the Treasury. 

Her new job also makes Yellen the first person—of any gender—to complete the Holy Trinity of the U.S. finance circuit: Council of Economic Advisers chair, Fed chair, and Treasury secretary. The list of her accomplishments and career highlights is large enough to fill a Proust-sized tome, but when it comes to the woman behind the resume, very little is known—barely a novella’s worth.   

In Fortune‘s February/March issue, I set out to find out what motivates Yellen, the woman who will be charged with the Biden administration’s efforts to stabilize a teetering U.S. economy that has been rocked by the COVID-19 pandemic—and who will have a profound impact on how quickly the economy can rebound. 

To do so, I spoke with Yellen and those closest to her: Former Fed Chair Ben Bernanke, San Francisco Fed President Mary C. Daly, and David Wessel, director of the Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy. They all echoed similar impressions of the 74-year-old economist: She leads with a quiet confidence that comes from always being the most prepared and researched person in the room. When asked to describe Yellen, Bernanke turned to a 1970s reference: “When Janet Yellen talks, people listen.” (You can see the EF Hutton commercial he was referencing here.)

To learn more about Janet Yellen and what she’d like to add to her ever-growing highlight reel, read the full profile here.

Nicole Goodkind

Today’s Broadsheet was curated by Emma Hinchliffe


- An Honest living. The Honest Company, the baby and beauty products company cofounded by actor Jessica Alba, is reportedly preparing to go public. Its IPO is expected to value the business around $2 billion. Bloomberg

- Vaccine diplomacy? Worries about vaccine supply to the EU led European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to OK a restriction on shipping vaccines outside the bloc—including from Ireland to Northern Ireland. That decision would have put checks on the border, which leaders fought to avoid during Brexit negotiations. The EU has reversed the clause, but von der Leyen is still facing intense criticism, including from Northern Irish First Minister Arlene Foster. Bloomberg

- Sweet week. Tootsie Roll Industries was one of the companies swept up in the GameStop frenzy last week. Leading the sweets maker is 89-year-old CEO Ellen Gordon, who took over the company in 2015 when she replaced her deceased husband. (She was previously president and COO and the couple ran the company as equals.) At one point last week, Tootsie Roll was worth more than $4 billion, boosting Gordon's fortune to $2.2 billion. Fortune 

- Military takes over Myanmar. The leader of Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi, was detained amid a military coup in the country on Monday. Suu Kyi lived under house arrest for years during earlier military rule, but has been in power since 2015. Internationally, Suu Kyi has shouldered blame for the military's crackdown and genocide of Rohingya Muslims. On military-run TV, it was announced that the general who serves as commander-in-chief would now be in charge for one year. Associated Press

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Marillyn Hewson, the former CEO of Lockheed Martin, will step down as chair of the defense company's board on March 1; Hewson will become a strategic advisor to the CEO through Feb. 28, 2022. 


- Striking a deal? Ten GOP senators, led by Sen. Susan Collins, proposed a compromise to President Biden on a COVID relief bill. The group's proposal would total about $600 billion, which is about one-third of the Democrats' plan. They sent a letter to Biden as Democrats worked to go around Republicans to pass a relief package without their support. NPR

- Giving big. Women are changing the future of philanthropy. From MacKenzie Scott's revolutionary strategy to an overhaul of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (the organization led by Priscilla Chan with her husband, Mark Zuckerberg) to Melinda Gates and Laurene Powell Jobs—nonprofits are taking note. Some traditional recipients, like colleges and universities, are adjusting their strategies to ask women for money more directly. New York Times

- Baby antibodies. A new study found that pregnant women who were infected with COVID-19 passed antibodies to their babies; none of the infants were born with a COVID infection. The finding suggests that pregnant women who receive the COVID vaccine could pass antibodies from receiving a vaccine. CNN

- Inside look. Carolyn Barber, an emergency department physician and cofounder of the homeless work program Wheels of Change, writes for Fortune about volunteering at a mass vaccination site in a San Diego ballpark. The volunteer health care professionals handle the long lines, assuage worries for patients with concerns about the vaccine, and are present for the relief and joy felt by others. Fortune


Sophie, who pushed the boundaries of pop music, dies at 34 New York Times

Boy Scouts’ coed recruiting touched off ‘ground war’ with Girl Scouts Wall Street Journal

Women's health isn't a geopolitical game New York Times

America is back, indeed The Cut


"When we’re all back in the office, you might want to go to a yoga class in the middle of the day, and that’s great. What matters are outcomes and results."

-Kohl's CEO Michelle Gass—known for arriving at the office at 6:30 a.m. and staying for 12 hours when she was a Starbucks exec—on adjusting the realities of work after the pandemic 

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