Although we have had one woman running for President and one female vice-presidential candidate, the 2008 election was not a complete success for women. We elected ten new women to the House and two to the Senate, but also suffered bitter defeats in House races where incredibly qualified challengers like former Microsoft executive Darcy Burner and Huntington Beach mayor Debbie Cook lost hard fought races against lackluster Republican incumbents. Furthermore, the pipeline of women elected on the local and state level (especially here in California) has flat-lined.
As President-elect Obama outlines his presidency, his immediate significant act is to appoint his team -- this would include new Cabinet secretaries and agency heads. In recent weeks there has been a lot of news about who will serve in those positions, but with the exception of the Hillary Clinton/Secretary of State rumors, there does not seem to be too much chatter about women serving in the administration. It would be a mistake to pass over women like Tammy Duckworth, who knows first hand the experience and needs of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, for consideration for Secretary of the VA, or Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano for Attorney General.
However, don't forget that in addition to appointing the Cabinet, Secretaries and Under-Secretaries, when the president takes office his Presidential appointees will include between 6,000 to 7,000 positions. These appointments are the best preparation for the next generation of women leaders, serving both as experience on a national stage and to mentor a fresh flow of women into the pipeline for higher offices in the future.
Here alone, in California, there are so many women who could serve -- women like former Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin who would be ideal for a position in the Department of Education. Or how about former Congresswoman and Chief of Staff for former Governor Gray Davis -- Lynn Schenk? The Los Angeles Times on Friday reported the possibility of a great pick: Mary Nichols, the chair of the State Air Resources Board, to lead the EPA.
With such a diverse and rich talent pool of women in California and the rest of the country, there is no reason for Barack Obama to not have his cabinet and appointments reflect the gender makeup of the country he will lead.
For the comments: What women do you think should serve in the offices of the new President's administration?
Bettina Duval is the founder of CALIFORNIA LIST, a network to elect Democratic women to California state government.