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NOW President Questions Summers As Treasury Secretary


First Posted: 11- 5-08 03:37 PM   |   Updated: 12- 6-08 05:12 AM

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Since Barack Obama has signaled that his transition team will move quickly, it shouldn't come as a surprise that advocacy organizations are acting just as fast to register their opinions.

On Wednesday morning, National Organization for Women President Kim Gandy contacted the Huffington Post to describe her "mixed feelings" at the prospect of Larry Summers being on a rumored short list of contenders for Treasury secretary. Cautioning that the quickness of the group's decision to drop a hint about its concern over Summers was not a formal declaration of "opposition," Gandy nevertheless fleshed out a broad critique.

"It's very important that whoever is in key positions understands the importance of women to this economy -- and that the impact of wage inequality for women has bearing on the overall economic inequality in our society," she said. "I don't see [this] on the agendas of most of the candidates being suggested. While Larry Summers has talked about income inequality, he doesn't seem to get it that a lot of that is related to the wage gap between men and women."

The renowned economist served at Treasury toward the end of the Clinton administration, and was president of Harvard before a controversy over comments he made about women's aptitude in math and science drove him from that post. So far, no reporting has suggested that Obama has asked Summers about his willingness to serve at Treasury. Summers himself refused to speculate on the possibility at a conference last month.

NOW's president said the group was not speaking out about Summers solely because of the Harvard incident. "He certainly is considered to have enormous intellectual capacity on the subject [of the economy]. Though his past support for derivatives that seem to have plunged us into this [crisis] makes him perhaps not the best choice to get us out of that."

But on the topic of the old Harvard controversy, Gandy added: "I'm torn on the subject. Part of me thinks his opinions on women's capacities for math and science don't have relevancy to financial markets. On the other hand, economics is a very math-heavy field. Does that mean he'd be less likely to include women in his own circle of advisers? I don't know the answer to that question; I don't know him. But I do wonder whether if his comments about women's lack of aptitude for math and science had instead been a comment or an opinion about African Americans having less capacity for math and science, would he be on anybody's short-list. That's a fair question to ask."

Gandy noted some displeasure at not hearing prominent female economists like Laura D'Andrea Tyson or Sheila Bair mentioned for the job. "We're gonna be forwarding some names to the Obama transition team," she said. "It's important that in this new administration women's voices are heard and heeded."

The feminist group's president also joked that there was an internal discussion at NOW on Wednesday morning, regarding whether or not to send a signal about their Cabinet preferences so soon after Obama's election. "There is some hesitation. We asked, is this really what we want to do? This guy just got elected. But all signs are that he's going to move very very quickly to fill key posts," she said.

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