Mary Daly’s Mentors Include Her Counselor, Professor—and Former Fed Chair Janet Yellen

May 02, 2018

Who mentors leading economists? Other leading economists, of course, but also counselors, teachers and anyone else.

“There’s no way that I would have been able to find my way without some help,” said Mary Daly, the research director at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.

In a recent Women in Economics podcast interview with the St. Louis Fed, Daly shares her journey from high school dropout to a leader in economic research. She credits a counselor, a professor and even Janet Yellen, the former chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, for aiding in her success.

Mary Daly during Women in Economics podcast

Mary Daly, research director of the San Francisco Fed, speaks with interviewer Maria Hasenstab during the Women in Economics podcast.

RUN TIME: 18:56

One of Daly’s first mentors was connected to her from a high school guidance counselor—after Daly had already dropped out of high school. That mentor encouraged her to earn her GED and to apply to college. The mentor even paid for Daly’s first semester at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

Daly went on to earn a bachelor of arts in economics and philosophy from the University of Missouri‐Kansas City; a master’s in economics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; and a doctorate in economics and public policy from Syracuse. She also pursued post-doctoral studies at Syracuse and Northwestern University.

“It just reminds me of the importance of mentors at any point in your life, but especially when you’re young, having someone say, ‘I see something in you that you don’t see in yourself. And I see opportunities for you that you don’t even imagine,’” Daly says.

She found it more daunting to ask for mentors as she grew older, but she still recognized the value. When Janet Yellen became president of the San Francisco Fed, she gave Daly, a labor economist in the Research department, the opportunity to explore a new area: macroeconomics.

“[Yellen] made my career kind of explode …,” Daly said. “[J]ust by interacting with her, answering questions, thinking about issues the way she did, I learned to do macroeconomics and labor economics simultaneously, and she’s also a big inspiration because she just has … this voracious appetite for information with a commitment to do well by people.”

Binge Listen the Women in Economics Podcast Series

The St. Louis Fed launched Women in Economics in March to encourage more women and minorities to consider economics as a field of study. This podcast appears under our long-running Timely Topics audio channel.

Available on iTunes  Subscribe on iTunes

Available on Stitcher  Subscribe on Stitcher

Among other questions, the series asks economists: Why did they choose the field? What struggles have they overcome? Why do they encourage young women and minorities to study economics?

  • Less than one-third of the students who graduate with bachelor’s degrees in economics are women.
  • That percentage of women further dwindles as education levels rise and as careers in economics advance.

You don’t have to be a woman—or interested in pursuing an economics degree—to appreciate the interviews. Messages like the importance of mentors, personal stories of triumph over obstacles, and tips on ways to advance your career apply to any listener, male or female, regardless of field.

Recent episodes feature:

Ellen Zentner, managing director and chief U.S. economist at Morgan Stanley.

Claudia Sahm, section chief, consumer and community development research, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.

Susan Feigenbaum, curators’ distinguished teaching professor in the department of economics at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

More episodes are in production and will drop soon.


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About the Author
Maria Hasenstab
Maria Hasenstab

Maria Hasenstab is a media relations coordinator with the St. Louis Fed. She works in Public Affairs.

Maria Hasenstab
Maria Hasenstab

Maria Hasenstab is a media relations coordinator with the St. Louis Fed. She works in Public Affairs.

This blog explains everyday economics, explores consumer topics and answers Fed FAQs. It also spotlights the people and programs that make the St. Louis Fed central to America’s economy. Views expressed are not necessarily those of the St. Louis Fed or Federal Reserve System.


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