I’ve recently been asked a lot about what a Donald Trump presidency really means for the state of women in our country. The prevailing view has been this: Women took a hit when Trump won the election back in November. In interviews it’s been characterized to me as: “women feel despair,” “women think there’s no hope anymore” and “women feel like they’ve gone back in time.” Those sentiments are understandable based on the comments we heard about women on the Access Hollywood tape revealed in October. And something that was much more personal for me — his suggestion that women facing sexual harassment in the workplace should just “find another career.”
But I tend to be an optimistic person who tries to find the good in almost everything. So let’s start with what else Trump has said about women. He’s said he loves women and that he’s one of the biggest supporters of women out there.
So ever since Election Day, I’ve been waiting — eagerly — to see if he would live up to those comments.
How many women would he appoint to top-tier positions in his administration? If I’d been asked, my first suggestion would have been to make it one of his first priorities, not only to fend off his critics, but also to do what’s right.
So, here we are. Trump will be inaugurated in just a few days on January 20, and who has he nominated for his top Cabinet positions?
(Drum roll… please.)
Mostly older white men.
Are these picks the only qualified candidates out there? Couldn’t he have tried for a bit more balance? If Ivanka did the choosing, would she have come up with the same roster?
Here’s part of the list for positions requiring Senate confirmation: Senator Dan Coats for Director of National Intelligence; Robert Lighthizer for U.S. Trade Representative; Rex Tillerson for Secretary of State; Governor Rick Perry for Secretary of Energy; Andrew Puzder for Secretary of Labor; General James Mattis for Secretary of Defense; Senator Jeff Sessions for Attorney General, and so on…
You get the point.
Turns out, of the 19 positions Trump has named that require Senate confirmation, just four of his picks are women: Elaine Chao for Department of Transportation; Betsy DeVos for Education; Nikki Haley for U.N. Ambassador; and Linda McMahon for Small Business Administration. (For the top jobs that don’t require Senate confirmation, Trump has so far selected just one woman for six key posts: Kellyanne Conway as Counselor).
Feeling uncharacteristically dejected, I thought it might be interesting to compare Trump’s female picks to President Barack Obama’s picks when he first came into office in 2008. And boy, was I surprised. Yes, Obama’s most savvy political pick was Hillary Clinton as his Secretary of State – a woman and also an adversary. But for Treasury, Defense, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, Energy, Veterans Affairs, Chief of Staff, Office of Management and Budget, U.S. Trade Representative and Attorney General to name just some, Obama picked men.
So I went back just a little bit further to the beginning of the 21st century when there was much talk about progressive change in so many ways. (Remember Y-2-K? Y2K?) That was the year George W. Bush won the hanging chad election over Al Gore. But Bush assembled a Cabinet many called unprecedented for its inclusiveness. Still, like Trump and Obama, he only included a handful of women.
So as optimistic as I’d love to be, it seems this kind of women problem isn’t just a Republican or Democrat thing. Women not being selected for more than a few high-level posts should be a bipartisan concern. Which means, whether you’ll be glad or sad on Inauguration Day when our next President is sworn into office, I suggest you look at it this way: We still have a huge amount of work to be done no matter who’s sitting in the Oval Office.
I, for one, plan to roll up my sleeves.
Gretchen Carlson is a former anchor on Fox News and an advocate for workplace equality and the empowerment of women.
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