Janet Yellen: So we all can succeed - 125 years of women's participation in the economy

Speech by Ms Janet L Yellen, Chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, at the "125 Years of Women at Brown Conference", sponsored by Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, 5 May 2017.

The views expressed in this speech are those of the speaker and not the view of the BIS.

Central bank speech  | 
08 May 2017

Thank you, and let me say what an honor it is, as an alumna of this great university, to be here today and part of this important occasion.

As we celebrate the 125th anniversary of women being admitted to Brown, it seems appropriate to reflect on the progress that women have achieved in the intervening years. Since 1891, women have made tremendous strides in their ability to pursue their dreams of education and meaningful work and to support themselves and their families. In pursuing these goals, women have helped improve working conditions for all workers and have been a major factor in America's prosperity over the past century and a quarter.

Despite this progress, evidence suggests that many women remain unable to achieve their goals. The gap in earnings between women and men, although smaller than it was years ago, is still significant; women continue to be underrepresented in certain industries and occupations; and too many women struggle to combine aspirations for work and family. Further advancement has been hampered by barriers to equal opportunity and workplace rules and norms that fail to support a reasonable work-life balance. If these obstacles persist, we will squander the potential of many of our citizens and incur a substantial loss to the productive capacity of our economy at a time when the aging of the population and weak productivity growth are already weighing on economic growth.