Federal Reserve CEO to Speak on Leadership

Federal Reserve CEO to Speak on Leadership

mary daly during podcastMary Daly during her podcast Women in Economics.Mary Daly, a high school dropout who is now president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, will discuss leadership for social good during the Nancy and Ray Loeschner Leadership Series at Northwestern University. 

Daly is the sixth speaker in the program, which presents visionary leaders in education and other fields. In April, Eve Ewing, the author of Ghosts in the Schoolyard, talked about leadership, racial trauma and more with School of Education and Social Policy Dean David Figlio.

Daly’s community-wide conversation will be held at 5:15 p.m. Tuesday, May 14 in Annenberg Hall, 2120 Campus Drive, room 345. RSVP for the Loeschner talk.

Often referred to as “the people’s economist” for her ability to explain complex economic ideas in plain English, Daly is openly gay and the third woman among the 12 presidents of the Fed’s regional banks.

As a senior executive, she has been a leading voice addressing what she has described as a “diversity crisis” in the economics profession and at the Federal Reserve. At the San Francisco Fed, she pushed successfully to balance the hiring of male and female research assistants.

“Policy reflects the people who make it,” Daly said. “If you have only one type of person around the table making the policy, you’re going to miss a lot of the problems that other people would see. And you’re certainly going to miss the unique solutions that they would be able to offer.”

"The Study of Humans"

A Missouri native, Daly dropped out of school at age 15 and worked at doughnut shops and Target to cobble together a full-time salary. She eventually received her general education development (GED) diploma and a bachelor's degree in economics and philosophy from the University of Missouri-Kansas City in 1985.

She later earned a master's degree from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in 1987 and a doctorate in economics from Syracuse University in 1994. She completed a National Institute on Aging post-doctoral fellowship at Northwestern in 1996.

“Her journey from high school dropout to central bank leader is, in many ways, a quintessential story of grit and hard work paying off,” Heather Long wrote in the Washington Post. “But Daly believes she wouldn’t be where she is today if it weren’t for Betsy Bane, a mentor who told Daly to get a GED and paid for her first semester at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Bane told her, “Don’t give up just because people say nobody like you has ever done it.”

Daly stresses the importance of having mentors in life – especially when you’re young – and in addition to Bane, counts former Fed chair Janet Yellen as another critical influence.

“I’m a big believer in, ‘it takes a village’ for any one of us to be really successful,” Daly said in the podcast, which she co-hosts. “I’ve tried to reach out and find mentors in my life, in my whole career.”

Daly is a labor economist by training but for most of her career has worked on issues related to the social safety net; Social Security, disability benefits and the welfare system.  She has published work on economic inequality, wage and unemployment dynamics, human capital formation, and disability and retirement policy.

At the Fed, she’s interested in how monetary policy interacts with people’s lives and demystifying economics through online education tools and virtual outreach products including videos and podcasts. Her ‘Women in Economics’ Podcasts Urge Women, Minorities to Study Economics.

“Economics is the study of humans,” she said. “It’s mistakenly often thought of as a study of data and finance and math, but it’s really the study of people. And that study of people, it, in the aggregate, is what I love.”

In addition to Ewing, previous speakers in the Loeschner Leadership Series include alumnus Chuck Friedman (BS88) of Microsoft (2018); economist Mischa Fisher (2018); Eva Moskowitz (2015), founder and CEO of Success Academy Charter Schools; and Wendy Kopp (2013), founder of Teach for America.

The lecture was established with a gift from SESP alumnus Ray Loeschner (MA57) of Grand Rapids, Michigan, the former president of Olivet University and a trailblazer in higher education. Loeschner, who attends the lectures, also received his PhD from Northwestern in 1962 and served as an assistant football and track coach.

By Julie Deardorff
Last Modified: 5/3/19