Now that the election is over, and we’re past remarks about binders full of women, and women voters “flirting” with either candidate (as so many male pundits enjoyed saying), we think it’s high time to get serious about the role that women will play in the next Obama administration.
Since women earned the right to vote in 1920, there have been only 25 female Cabinet members total. President George W. Bush holds the record for appointing the most women Cabinet members with six, followed closely by President Barack Obama’s first Cabinet with five.
The Cabinet is made up of the heads of the 15 executive government departments, including Labor, Education, Justice, Health and Human Services, Defense, Treasury, and so on. We have to commend former President Bush for appointing women to 40% of his Cabinet leadership posts, and we challenge the next Obama administration to do even better.
Having women in top-level, public-facing government positions has an important and sweeping effect on women across the country. Issues like jobs, healthcare, education, defense, and the economy all affect women in personal, unique ways, and the more female advice heard by the President on a regular basis, the better.
Women make up over 50% of the population of the United States, yet are poorly represented in all leadership positions, public and private. Though we’ve come a long way, women in elective office in 2012 hold just 17% of the seats in the U.S. Congress, Senate, and House of Representatives, and 23% in state elective offices and legislatures. We still see only 19 female CEOs in the Fortune 500, and even in movies, females make up just 33% of all characters in the top 100 domestic grossing movies.
In President Obama’s first term, he appointed Hilda Solis as Secretary of Labor, and the very first bill he signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009. Secretary Solis said, “I want to recognize that, although progress is being made, equal pay is still far from a reality for millions of working women and their families. We must continue to pursue pay equity with passion and determination.”
This issue, and so many critical others that effect our businesses, our families, our education system, and our healthcare, are exactly why the next administration needs even more strong female voices in the U.S. Cabinet. So, please, President Obama, we ask you to take strong consideration to choose qualified women to include in your administration, and to set a new bar for equality in our government.