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Let’s Stop Counting: A Word on Women at the Treasury Department

Women’s History Month is a time to recognize achievements by women in the financial sector and to consider how far we have come from an era when women were not afforded the training or opportunities to serve their nation in this capacity.

Ed. note: This is cross-posted from Treasury Notes.

While the fields of economics and finance continue to be heavily represented by men, Treasury’s history reminds us that women have been, and continue to be, important leaders in shaping economic policy. This is particularly noteworthy at a moment in U.S. history when the rules of the financial sector are being rewritten and technology is changing the way our economy functions.

Women’s History Month is a time to recognize these achievements and to consider how far we have come from an era when women were not afforded the training or opportunities to serve their nation in this capacity. President Obama’s Administration has set the record for the most women serving in Senate-confirmed positions at the Treasury Department since its establishment in 1789.

Today, seven key positions at Treasury are held by women, including:

  • Lael Brainard, the Under Secretary for International Affairs, and the first woman in Treasury’s history to hold this position. In the 1990s, Brainard served as the first woman U.S. Sherpa to the Group of Eight. At Secretary Geithner’s direction, Brainard has been leading U.S. efforts to encourage Europe to strengthen its crisis response.
  • Mary Miller, the Assistant Secretary for Financial Markets, who has been nominated by President Obama to be Under Secretary for Domestic Finance. Miller currently manages the world’s largest securities market and oversees all U.S. borrowing.
  • Janice Eberly, the Assistant Secretary for Economic Policy, and only the second woman to serve in this role. As Treasury’s Chief Economist, Eberly is responsible for assisting in the determination of appropriate economic policies and has played an important role in reframing the debate around economic uncertainty.
  • Leslie Ireland, the Assistant Secretary for Intelligence & Analysis. Ireland is responsible for the analysis of intelligence used to safeguard the international financial system from abuse and to combat threats to U.S. national security. Prior to her role at Treasury, Ireland was the Daily Intelligence Briefer to the President.
  • Marisa Lago, the Assistant Secretary for International Markets & Development. Lago represents the U.S. in a number of international fora that oversee global financial regulatory reform and multilateral development.
  • Jenni LeCompte, the Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs. For the past three years, LeCompte has been advising the Secretary and the Department on how to communicate with, and engage the public on, issues that include fiscal policy, the global recovery from the crisis and the drive for financial reform.
  • Rosie Rios, the Treasurer of the United States, a position which has been held by a woman since 1949. Rios has direct oversight over currency and coin production and advises the Secretary on issues of community development and public engagement.

These women are part of a long tradition of women serving their country in various roles at the Treasury Department. The first woman to hold a Senate-confirmed position at Treasury was Josephine Roche under President Roosevelt in the 1930s. Roche served as Assistant Secretary of Public Health, which was housed in Treasury until 1939. Bette Anderson was the first woman to serve as an Under Secretary for Administration and Enforcement Operations at Treasury (1977-1981), appointed by President Carter. There have also been three female General Counsels of Treasury since the office was created in 1934: Edith Holiday (1988-1990), Jeanne Archibald (1990-1992), and Jean Hansen (1993-1994). Edith Holiday was later appointed Secretary to the President’s Cabinet under President Bush.

I feel privileged to work with and learn from all of the talented women, serving at all levels, within the Department. I would be remiss to exclude the accomplished men working at Treasury, who along with their female colleagues, have served as champions of, and mentors to, women in this field.

Today, we celebrate this record number of women at Treasury. But I hope that soon, we can stop counting altogether.

Many thanks to Abby Gilbert at the U.S. Mint for her help in compiling this list and her diligent attention to preserving Treasury’s history.

Kate Harris is a Policy Advisor and Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary for Financial Institutions at the United States Department of the Treasury.