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Feminomics: Top Five Heroines of Financial Reform

Women are leading the charge on financial reform. In the spirit of celebrating their contributions, here are the top five heroes of 2009.
 
 
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From an economic standpoint, will 2010 be the year of the woman? As part of the Roosevelt Institute's ongoing 'Feminomics' series, running on the New Deal 2.0 blog, I was asked to reflect on women's changing roles in the economy. Here's my take on how the New Deal advanced the cause of women's equality.

1) First, I'll start with Yves Smith, who I came across end of last summer. She has 25 years in financial services, worked for, amongst others, Goldman, McKinsey, and Sumitomo, and is also a graduate of Harvard and Harvard Business School. Her must-read blog is Naked Capitalism. She has shown great knowledge and greater courage -- and from my experience, these two traits are too rare together. Her writing is exceptional, and if you want a good overview of the financial mess and what's gone on over the past year and half, I highly recommend paging through her blog's archive. The president should replace Geithner with her. Time we had our first woman Treasury Secretary.

2) Next, Elizabeth Warren. Either mistakenly, which I believe is the case, or purposefully, in which case I'd have to reevaluate my opinion of Harry Reid, Warren was appointed by Reid to head the Congressional Oversight Panel for all the money being handed to the banks. Warren is Professor of Law at Harvard and wrote the excellent book The Two-Income Trap: Why Middle-Class Mothers and Fathers Are Going Broke. So, she documented the great underbelly of Wall Street's debt bubble -- particularly its destruction of a big chunk of working America. I don't know if Reid thought he was getting some doddering academic when he appointed her, but instead he got a strong and energetic public advocate. There's been a pretty hard effort to discredit Ms. Warren, and Yves Smith takes a look at the hatchet job done by NPR here. I've been nothing but impressed when I've heard her talk, and strongly second the motion by William Greider to give her subpoena powers.

3) In October 2007, working for Oppenheimer, Meredith Whitney wrote a report calling Citi the pile junk it is. Amazingly, she was pretty much the only one in the whole industry to do so. Since then, Whitney has been straight at the big banks, holding nothing back on what bad shape they're in. She's the Anti-Geithner. In the middle of latest pop in the stock market, which has gotten the banks $50 billion in new capital over the past couple months, Whitney appeared on CNBC and called the banks' profits "manufactured" by the government, and stated things would begin heading south again. She's an eagle above the weasels scurrying below on Wall Street.

4) Gretchen Morgenson writes for the NYT business section. In the last year and half, she has written far and away some of the best coverage of the financial crisis in the mainstream media. Most importantly, she put Mr. Blankfein at the meeting with Mr. Paulson and Mr. Bernanke when the bailout of AIG was decided to the advantage of Goldman for at least 14 billion. Again, if you want to read some good things on the last year and half, scroll through her articles in the Times' archive ( The Nation did an ok piece on her, but unfortunately, it suffers from the author's "objective journalism" disease).

5) Finally, I'd throw in Sheila Bair, who was appointed head of the FDIC by none other than George W. Bush. Ms. Bair has frequently tangled with the boys in the government, taking on Paulson, Bernanke, Geithner, and Summers. She's stated repeatedly the banking crisis is not over, tried to slow the foreclosure tsunami, and most recently stated again Citi is a pile of crap and needs to be placed into receivership.