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Work-life balance key to women leadership: Yellen

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen (right) speaks during a meeting with Bank of Korea employees at the central bank headquarters in Seoul on Tuesday. (BOK)
US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen (right) speaks during a meeting with Bank of Korea employees at the central bank headquarters in Seoul on Tuesday. (BOK)
US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said work-life balance plays a key role in shaping a work environment that is appealing to women, who she described as still underrepresented in workplaces, at a meeting with the Bank of Korea’s female workers held Tuesday in Seoul.

“Work-life balance is a tremendous problem. I guess it’s a huge problem here, too,” Yellen said, describing having a family while working in challenging jobs as a hurdle for women pursuing a career. The meeting was part of her two-day trip meant to discuss economic ties with senior Korean policymakers handling the economy.

Yellen – the first woman to serve as chair of the US Federal Reserve and chief of the US Treasury – said marrying a partner who believed in a fair division of household labor was what had enabled her to juggle work and child-rearing successfully. Quality childcare had also been helpful, she added.

Her remarks come as Korea still faces mounting calls from female entrepreneurs for greater access to childcare and awareness of both parents making the same efforts to raise their children. Many studies have found that the burden of child-rearing often falls disproportionally on women in Korea.

Encouraging women to take on challenging assignments and building an atmosphere to see such culture take place naturally empowers women, Yellen added, saying she worked to make that happen when she was at the Fed.

The most successful workers or those who “thrive” in central banks are ones who tackle the issues at hand, however challenging they may look, Yellen said, referring to the current economic woes gripping the global economy and prompting her to visit America’s one of the biggest Asian allies.

At separate meetings with Korean policymakers and business leaders the same day, the US treasury secretary said she expects to see stronger economic ties between the two allies, calling out China for endorsing unfair trade practices. 

She has repeatedly backed “friend-shoring” – a coalition of market economies sharing common values and trade practices that separate countries like China and Russia. China has used its market position to disrupt the global economy, which is suffering from Russia’s “brutal and unjust war” in Ukraine, according to Yellen.

By Choi Si-young (siyoungchoi@heraldcorp.com)
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