President-Elect Barack Obama is on track to nominate the most women to his cabinet than any other U.S. President in history. While President Bush had a record-holding five women appointed to his cabinet, including U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab, and Clinton had five in his Cabinet at the start of his presidency, Obama can easily supersede this number by filling his remaining cabinet-level administration posts with women.
Doing so would not only be ground-breaking, but would go a long way toward helping to turn the tide in terms of the representation of women at all levels of government and in high-level leadership positions. The question is what difference does appointing or electing a woman make? A HUGE one.
Appointing and electing women to office and to key leadership positions means there will be a diverse range of perspectives and experiences from which to draw upon when making choices regarding public policies, governance, and important decisions like whether or not to initiate or end a war.
It is no secret that the United States has long lagged behind in the number of women elected to public office with only 69 seats of 435 in the House of Representatives occupied by women; 16 of 100 senators and only 26 women have ever been elected governor. The U.S. also ranks 66th in women's political leadership behind the Philippines and Singapore.
I believe after nearly one hundred years since women got the vote, it is about time for a little political parity. Just a minute Sarah Palin--don't go filling out your forms for 2012 just yet.
Unlike the GOP, Obama and his transition team seem to believe in quality over quantity. The women Obama has chosen so far are outstanding and accomplished stateswomen and issue advocates--Hillary Clinton, Janet Napolitano, Lisa Jackson, Melody Barnes, and Susan Rice. And what makes Obama's choices even more outstanding with regard to women is that thus far over half of his picks are women of color; the latest being Representative Hilda Solis, a pro-labor Latino woman from El Monte California. The selection of Solis is among one of the best so far in a string of wildly powerful and qualified women.
I believe Obama made a misstep when he chose mega-church evangelical Rick Warren to deliver his inaugural invocation--it tasted of cheap politics and two-day old tuna left sitting out in the hot sun, but I must admit with regard to his appointments of women to his cabinet and to key leadership positions, his taste is top notch.
C. Nicole Mason, Ph.D., is a political scientist and the executive director of the Women of Color Policy Network at the Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at New York University. She is also a Senior Research Fellow at the National Council for Research on Women.