Brainard, the undersecretary for international affairs, is one of the highest-ranking women at the
Yellen is a leading contender for the job along with former Treasury Secretary Lawrence H. Summers. The Fed has never had a woman chair.
In recent weeks, Summers has appeared to emerge as the favorite for that job. If Yellen is passed over for the nomination, she probably would resign from the Fed's Board of Governors.
That could leave the seven-person board without a female member.
Elizabeth Duke stepped down from the board this summer. And another female board member, Sarah Bloom Raskin, was nominated in July to be deputy Treasury Secretary. She is expected to be confirmed this fall, causing another departure.
In addition, Sandra Pianalto, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, has announced she will leave that position early next year. Pianalto is a member of the central bank's policymaking Federal Open Market Committee.
If Brainard were nominated and confirmed, it would ensure that the Fed board has at least one woman member next year. Her selection also could signal that Obama was planning to choose Summers to replace Bernanke, whose term as chairman ends in January.
Brainard, an economist and former associate professor at the