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WASHINGTON — Behind the roiling conversation over whether President Barack Obama might make Janet L. Yellen the first female leader of the Federal Reserve is an uncomfortable reality for the White House: the administration has named no more women to high-level executive branch posts than the Clinton administration did almost two decades ago.

The White House has taken steps to even its gender balance in recent months with high-profile nominations like Samantha Power as ambassador to the United Nations and Susan E. Rice as national security adviser. But by most measures of gender diversity, including the proportion of women at Cabinet level, the executive branch looks little different from 20 years ago, even as the House of Representatives, the Senate and corporate America have placed significantly more women in senior roles.

“There’s room for improvement, and we’ve seen some missed opportunities,” said Debbie Walsh, the director for the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. “We’re all watching the Fed to see what will happen there.”

Obama is choosing from a small pool of candidates for the Federal Reserve position — probably the most important economic appointment he will make in his second term. The finalists include Yellen, the Fed’s current vice chairwoman and a former Clinton administration official. The favored candidate among several top Obama aides is Lawrence H. Summers, the former Treasury secretary and Obama economic adviser.