Women build presence on world monetary stage

Gradual increase in female central banking presence after Yellen takes Fed helm

Female central bankers are building up influence across monetary authorities around the world, although they are still a long way from launching a full-scale assault on what has traditionally been an all-male bastion. The OMFIF (Official Monetary & Financial Institutions Forum) Index of Female Central Bankers nearly doubled last year, rising to 1.85 on 31 December (compared with a maximum score of 10) against 0.93 a year earlier, above all owing to Janet Yellen taking the helm of the US Federal Reserve.

The number of female governors remained unchanged at 15 in 2014 out of a total of 191 institutions. Gill Marcus of the South African Reserve Bank and Zina Asankojoeva of the National Bank of the Kyrgyz Republic stepped down as governors, while Marta Evelyn Rivera was demoted to deputy governor in El Salvador and Nadezhda Ermakova was ousted from the Belarus central bank. Along with Yellen, Chrystalla Georghadji in Cyprus, Azeema Adam in the Maldives and Valeriia Gontareva in the Ukraine all took office in 2014. Although female central bankers rose through the ranks as deputy governors and board members in a number of leading countries, only six of the world’s top 100 economies – the US, Russia, Malaysia, Israel, Ukraine and Serbia – had non-male governors at the end of last year.

The OMFIF index has two components, each with a 50% weighting. The first tracks the preponderance of female central bank chiefs as a function of their countries’ share of world economic output (measured by purchasing power parities). The second measures the percentage of women on policy-making councils of the world’s top 19 countries plus the European Central Bank. The overall index was boosted by a sharp increase in women taking up important central banking roles below governor level in leading economies. The Bank of England has two women on its monetary policy committee, Nemat Shafik as deputy governor and Kristin Forbes as an external member, compared with none a year previously. Including Yellen as well as Loretta Mester, Lael Brainard and Christine Cumming, four of the 15 members (10 members and five alternate members) of the Federal Open Market Committee are women. The Bank of Canada has increased to three from one the female contingent on its six-person governing council. The number of women on the ECB governing council has risen to two from zero, with the elevation of Sabine Lautenschläger (now a board member) and Cyprus’s Georghadji. Claudia Buch in May took Lautenschläger’s previous seat as Bundesbank deputy president.

All G20 members have either increased or maintained female representation on central bank councils. In Australia and Russia, women make up one third of these councils.

The OMFIF Index of Female Central Bankers uses data from the IMF, World Bank and respective central banks.