Remember last night during the presidential debates when the candidates were asked about pay equity, and Obama talked about concrete steps his administration had taken to ensure equality (the Lily Ledbetter Act, which he signed his first day in office), and Romney talked about how he would let a female staffer go home early because women need to cook dinner? And Romney also talked about how he was assembling his cabinet when he was elected governor of Massachusetts, and wouldn’t you know it, every single qualified person who applied was a man. Every single one! And so Big Daddy Romney, caring as much as he does about women in the workplace(?), went to women’s groups and asked them for qualified women. And they sent on “binders full of women” (cue internet memes). And then he hired a bunch of those women, and then according to a survey of all 50 states, “mine had more women in senior leadership positions than any other state in America.” That is a really nice story. It turns out that it’s not at all true.
What actually happened was that in 2002 — prior to the election, not even knowing yet whether it would be a Republican or Democratic administration — a bipartisan group of women in Massachusetts formed MassGAP to address the problem of few women in senior leadership positions in state government. There were more than 40 organizations involved with the Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus (also bipartisan) as the lead sponsor.
They did the research and put together the binder full of women qualified for all the different cabinet positions, agency heads, and authorities and commissions. They presented this binder to Governor Romney when he was elected.
I have written about this before, in various contexts; tonight I’ve checked with several people directly involved in the MassGAP effort who confirm that this history as I’ve just presented it is correct — and that Romney’s claim tonight, that he asked for such a study, is false.
I will write more about this later, but for tonight let me just make a few quick additional points. First of all, according to MassGAP and MWPC, Romney did appoint 14 women out of his first 33 senior-level appointments, which is a reasonably impressive 42 percent. However, as I have reported before, those were almost all to head departments and agencies that he didn’t care about — and in some cases, that he quite specifically wanted to not really do anything. None of the senior positions Romney cared about — budget, business development, etc. — went to women.
Secondly, a UMass-Boston study found that the percentage of senior-level appointed positions held by women actually declined throughout the Romney administration, from 30.0% prior to his taking office, to 29.7% in July 2004, to 27.6% near the end of his term in November 2006. (It then began rapidly rising when Deval Patrick took office.)
Third, note that in Romney’s story as he tells it, this man who had led and consulted for businesses for 25 years didn’t know any qualified women, or know where to find any qualified women. So what does that say?
Indeed. That says quite a lot.