Pipeline to Obama Is Dominated by Men ; Record on Appointments of Women Betters Bush's but Only Equals Clinton's

By Lowrey, Annie | International Herald Tribune, January 1, 2013 | Go to article overview

Pipeline to Obama Is Dominated by Men ; Record on Appointments of Women Betters Bush's but Only Equals Clinton's


Lowrey, Annie, International Herald Tribune


The Obama administration has compiled a record that significantly exceeds the proportion of women appointed by President George W. Bush but does no better than matching the Clinton administration.

In an Oval Office meeting on Dec. 29, 11 of President Barack Obama's top advisers stood before him discussing the heated fiscal negotiations. The 10 visible in a White House photo are men.

In the days since, Mr. Obama has put together a national security team dominated by men, with Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts nominated to succeed Hillary Rodham Clinton as the secretary of state, Chuck Hagel chosen to be the defense secretary and John O. Brennan nominated as the director of the C.I.A. Given the leading contenders for other top jobs, including chief of staff and Treasury secretary, Mr. Obama's inner circle will continue to be dominated by men well into his second term.

From the White House down the ranks, the Obama administration has compiled a broad appointment record that has significantly exceeded the Bush administration in appointing women but has done no better than the Clinton administration, according to an analysis of personnel data by The New York Times. About 43 percent of Mr. Obama's appointees have been women, about the same proportion as in the Clinton administration, but up from the roughly one-third appointed by George W. Bush.

The skew was widespread: Male appointees under Mr. Obama outnumbered female appointees at 11 of the 15 federal departments, for instance. In some cases, the skew was also deep. At the Departments of Justice, Defense, Veterans Affairs and Energy, male appointees outnumbered female appointees by about two to one.

"We're not only getting better than previous administrations, but we also want to get better ourselves as well," Nancy D. Hogan, assistant to the president and director of presidential personnel, said in response to the Times analysis. "The president puts a premium on making his team representative of the American people."

The White House itself employs almost exactly the same number of men and women, and administration officials said they hoped to even out the ratio across the government and help ensure that future Democratic administrations have a diverse and deep bench of candidates for high-level jobs.

But Mr. Obama's recent nominations raised concern that women were being underrepresented at the highest level of government and would be passed over for top positions.

For instance, many Democrats had hoped that Mr. Obama would name Michele Flournoy, a former under secretary of defense, to the Pentagon post. They had also hoped that he might name Alyssa Mastromonaco or Nancy-Ann M. DeParle, who are top White House aides, to the chief of staff job, or Lael Brainard, an under secretary at the Treasury Department, as secretary. But speculation about the chief of staff position now rests on Denis McDonough, the deputy national security adviser, and Ronald A. Klain, a former chief of staff to Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. For the Treasury position, most expect Mr. Obama to name his current chief of staff, Jacob J. Lew.

"It's not so much about checking a box, like on a census form," said Tracy Sefl, a Democratic political consultant in Washington. "It's about the qualitative properties that the candidate takes to the position. In this case you're talking about tremendous women, and then we get a whole bunch more white guys."

Interviews with current and former members of the administration, both men and women, suggested that there was no single reason for the gender discrepancy in administration appointments, and several repeatedly spoke of the administration's internal commitment to diversity and gender equity. …

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