Bills would officially change Fed leader’s title to ‘chair,’ address diversity for leadership at Reserve Banks

The leader of the Federal Reserve Board would be referred to as “chair” (rather than “chairman”), and the 12 Federal Reserve banks would be required to interview at least one minority and one female candidate for top leadership, under legislation introduced in the opening days of the new Congress.

The “Ensuring Diverse Leadership Act,” introduced in both the Senate and House (as, respectively, S. 65 by Sen. Kamala Harris [D-Calif.] and H.R. 281 by Rep. Joyce Beatty [D-Ohio]) would change references to the leader of the Federal Reserve Board to “chair” as opposed to “chairman,” under “technical adjustments” outlined under the legislation. The Senate bill was introduced Jan. 3; the House bill, Jan. 8.

Since its inception more than 100 years ago, the Fed has had only male leaders – “chairmen” – with the lone exception of Janet Yellen, who served at the head of the central bank’s board from 2014-18; she was typically referred to as “Chair Yellen.” She was replaced as Fed chair about one year ago by Jerome H. (“Jay”) Powell, who typically uses the title “chairman.”

But the “Ensuring Diverse Leadership Act” would change the reference in law – such as in the Federal Deposit Insurance Act (FDIA), the Federal Reserve Act, and the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of -2010 (Dodd-Frank) – among many others – to “chair” (from “chairman”) throughout the various statutes.

The emphasis of the bills, however, is on mandating an interview of both a minority candidate and a woman candidate when any of the Federal Reserve Banks consider filling a vacancy for president. According to a release by Harris, of the more than 130 individuals who have served as presidents of the 12 reserve banks, only three have been non-white.

“In 2017, Raphael Bostic became the first African American reserve bank president when he became president of the Atlanta Fed,” the release stated. “Additionally, there have been only seven women to ever serve as a reserve bank president.”

Both bills also require that reserve banks submit a report to the Senate Banking Committee, the House Financial Services Committee, and the Office of the Inspector General of the Federal Reserve System – within 60 days of filling a vacancy for a presidency – detailing how many candidates were considered and providing demographic information on them.

S.65 and HR 281 have been referred to the Senate Banking and the House Financial Services Committees, espectively. Harris’ bill is a repeat of legislation introduced in the last (115th) Congress.

Harris Re-Introduces Legislation to Promote Diversity and Inclusion at Federal Reserve