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Madeleine M. Kunin Headshot

Will President Obama Invite Women into His Administration?

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The lights of Washington, DC looked different to me last night as I flew into the capital to give a talk on my book, Pearls, Politics and Power: How Women Can Win and Lead.

The election of Barack Obama has cast a new aura over the city. And this morning, it seemed as if everyone was smiling. I was carrying a bag with Obama's visage printed on it. "I love your bag," several people said, their eyes lighting up as they recognized his face.

The glow has not yet faded, but speculation about his appointees has already hit high gear, especially in Washington. With the announcement of Rahm Emanuel as chief of staff, the faces and names of other potential appointees have begun to surface.

It is all speculation at this point, but what concerns me is that not many names of women for high posts have been mentioned. Obama's inner circle of the two "David's", Axelrod and Plouffe, are clearly talented, but they are the same kind of white guys that have been at the side of Presidents past.

Bill Clinton stirred some controversy when he went on a prolonged search for a female Attorney General, but he found one in Janet Reno. He also appointed women to other high visibility positions where they had not been before. To appoint a significant number of women and minorities, it will be necessary for the President -elect to do some serious outreach beyond his inner circle. Talented, capable women are out there, but they have to be identified and invited. They are not automatically part of the good old boy network -- whether that network is white or black.

Women's resumes still tend to be somewhat different from men's because many women have had interrupted lives to take time out for their families. When I was elected Governor of Vermont, and interviewed women for top positions, I realized that these blank spaces in women's resumes were not really blank at all because I had them in my resume too. These were the years of raising children, doing volunteer work, and part-time work -- all valuable experience for public service.

As the speculation continues about who will serve in the Obama administration, I strongly hope that there will be no short list for any post without a substantial number of women on it.

I also urge women to promote themselves for these positions. Having served on the Bill Clinton transition team, I can tell you the process is highly competitive. Do not underestimate your abilities and do not wait to be asked. Put your name, your resume, and your desire to serve on the President-elect's desk. And if you have political connections, use them. That is what the guys do.

This was originally posted at Chelsea Green.

Madeleine M. Kunin is the former Governor of Vermont and was the state's first woman governor. She served as Ambassador to Switzerland for President Clinton, and was on the three-person panel that chose Al Gore to be Clinton's VP. She is the author of Pearls, Politics, and Power: How Women Can Win and Lead from Chelsea Green Publishing.