5 Reasons The President’s Cabinet Choices Matter

By Sheree Winslow

As someone who has supported President Obama in the past both financially and through volunteer efforts, I am highly disappointed in the current lack of diversity in his cabinet choices.  Recent posts to my Facebook page on this topic have mostly drawn huge support but there has also been criticism.

Why does gender matter?  Isn’t it more important to get qualified candidates for the job?  “He’s a great president so leave him alone.”  “So tired of this woman’s rights crap.”  These are some of the negative comments my criticism of the President has drawn.

I am going to keep writing and posting on this topic because right now there is an opportunity to create positive changes and I don’t want our numbers of women in top jobs to continue moving backwards.  Below are five reasons the President’s cabinet choices are important to the fight for equality.

  1. Because the numbers tell us that there are qualified female candidates.  One of the arguments coming from the spin machine is that Obama is simply appointing the best person for the job.  This idea ignores math and rational thought.  If the workforce is comprised of 51% women, Obama’s White House employees are 50% women, and if women are outpacing men in educational attainment, wouldn’t it follow that there is some percentage of qualified female candidates that is greater than 0%?  This is just simple math.  The argument that there are no qualified female candidates highlights a type of insidious institutional sexism.
  2. Because we need best thinking on our President’s team.  A series of studies I have cited in the past, both academic research and studies of company performance, point to the improvement of results when there is a balance of men and women on the team or when women lead.  President Obama is not simply assembling individual performers but he is assembling a team of advisors who will provide him with solutions to a host of our country’s issues.  Whether considering domestic or foreign policy, the economy or our infrastructure—we need the best group possible advising the President so we need diverse thinking.
  3. Because the campaign targeted women and now, this becomes an integrity issue. Integrity is defined as doing what a person says he or she will do.  After the President’s campaign targeted women, regularly pointed to differences between Republicans and Democrats on women’s issues, touted the President as a champion of woman’s rights, and resulted in a win driven largely by the votes of single women, the President’s integrity is on the line.  During a commencement speech at Barnard College, the President said that women shouldn’t just ask for a seat at the table but demand a seat at the head of the table.  Those words and his campaign are nothing more than pandering if the President doesn’t put action behind them.
  4. Because the job is Chief Executive.  As the CEO of the country, Obama is ultimately responsible for recruitment, training, and succession planning within the federal government.  If he is unable to assemble a diverse team after he has been leading the federal government for 4 years, he is responsible for practices that result in a lack of leadership diversity and this needs to be addressed.
  5. Because the president sets an example for the nation and world.  As the most powerful leader in the world, the President’s influence extends beyond government to the private sector and around the globe.  If others in power both in the U.S. and abroad see that the president can talk about women’s empowerment and then not follow through with appointments of women, why should they have to worry about ensuring equality in their succession plans?

The work in making cabinet appointments will likely continue for a couple months.  During this time of transition from one term to the next, I am hopeful that President Obama will give greater consideration to creating a diverse team.  From a woman who has been a strong supporter of the President, this is where our beliefs are tested.  And this issue matters.

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