Equity: not just for chicks

9 Oct

This morning on KQED’s Forum, Michael Krasny talks to two economics experts about Barack Obama appointing Janet Yellen to head the Federal Reserve. His guests are Laura D’Andrea Tyson, professor at the Haas School of Business, UC Berkeley and former chair of President Bill Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers; and Peter Coy, economics editor of Bloomberg BusinessWeek.

Krasny pitches some questions to both guests, and others to one or the other, depending on the fit he presumably sees between their qualifications and expertise, and the subject of his query.

One question in particular struck me.

Krasny asks Tyson whether she is, “of course” excited that Yellen is a woman. To be clear: Krasny specifically does not ask Coy. Apparently, Tyson would be the expert regarding the awesomeness of Yellen being a woman. Because, after all, Tyson is a woman.

Right?

Tyson, who is no dummy, deftly replies with the classic two-part response:

  • She, of course, believes that any appointee should be qualified.
  • But (then she corrects herself)–And, she is delighted that a woman has made it and can now be a role model and inspiration to women worldwide.

Speak it, sister.

And yet.

While I breathed a sigh of relief at Tyson’s skilled handling of the question, I was still peeved. Not that Krasny asked–I think we live in a time where he still has to, and because he does, people get to hear Tyson remove one more brick from the merit v. diversity myth.

I was peeved that Krasny didn’t notice the blatant sexism of his question: by making this a woman’s question, he momentarily stripped Tyson of all her credentials, while he and Coy got to sit back and once again listen to the minority defend the minority’s merit. (I mean, really, what answer did he expect? He’s talking to a woman who pursued a Ph.D. in macroeconomics. She knows about having to justify her lady smarts.)

And I was really peeved by the persistent myopia of the question: Aren’t we all, regardless of our sex, excited that Yellen is being appointed? Isn’t it reassuring to know that the position of Head of the Federal Reserve isn’t limited by sexism? That the economic well-being of our country isn’t just a boys club? (Qualified boys, of course.) That someone as obviously qualified as Yellen is able to take the helm of the Fed? I would think so.

That’s the question I’ll be glad to hear some day, asked not just to the minority unofficially assigned to handle these issues, but to everyone. Because equity isn’t just for some of us.

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