There goes the old boys' club.
It's ironic and perhaps fitting that it took President-elect Joe Biden, the oldest man to win the White House, to open the gates of power to women in a truly significant way. He started, of course, with Kamala Harris, who will be the first woman to serve as vice president. Thankfully, he didn't stop there.
For the first time in history women have the chance to weigh in on every important White House decision.
In a particularly stunning move, he and Harris have chosen an all-female slate to lead their communications team, ensuring that — for the first time in history — women have the chance to weigh in on every important White House decision. Women will be advising the president and speaking for him. On a daily basis, they will represent the administration to the world. Theirs will be the voices of the administration.
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This is no small matter. Women offer different perspectives and different priorities from those of men. In general, women are more often focused on issues such as health care, pay equity and education, which directly affect their families, and are more concerned about equality for immigrants and people of color. The benefits of these differing priorities are visible in the legislative branch. Women in Congress have brought about important changes in laws regarding women's health and family and medical leave, among other things. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was widely credited for getting the Affordable Care Act over the finish line.
For far too long — meaning forever — men have occupied most key positions in the White House, making decisions that changed women's lives without hearing what actual women had to say.
Remember all those startling photos of President Donald Trump, flanked almost entirely (or, in some cases, actually entirely) by white men, as he signed legislation and executive orders and made pronouncements that would affect ... everyone? That started a few days after he took office, when he reinstated a global gag rule that bars U.S. aid to organizations that so much as discuss abortion overseas — while a bunch of men looked on.
Shortly after that, Vice President Mike Pence tweeted out a photo of a meeting he chaired to discuss, among other things, maternity benefits. There wasn't a woman in sight, although presidential adviser Kellyanne Conway was across the room out of the frame, standing amid about 30 men.
Yes, there have been women in the White House in every recent administration, including Trump's. They have served as deputy chiefs of staff, communications directors, press secretaries and senior advisers. But they have been far outnumbered and outranked by men. And as every woman knows, it is hard to make yourself heard when you are one of a few women in a room — or the only one. That's no way to represent an entire gender.
During the campaign, Biden promised that his administration would look like America. So far, he has delivered. Yet he's done more to empower women and people of color than even the early numbers show. Indeed, Biden has already put to rest the sexist, racist and blatantly false notion that intentionally filling positions with people who previously were excluded somehow means sacrificing quality.
Biden has selected people who are highly accomplished and superbly qualified to serve in his Cabinet and on his White House staff. In choosing them, he has demonstrated what women and people of color have known all along: There are plenty of top-notch people in every demographic group for even the most high-level jobs. You just have to see them and open the barricades that have blocked them from serving.
For its entire history, America has overlooked — discriminated against — the majority of its residents. In service to white men, our nation has squandered much of its talent, tamped down ambitions and, as a result, underachieved. Consider that only 54 women have served in Cabinet or Cabinet-level positions, and they were appointed by just 12 presidents, starting with Franklin D. Roosevelt, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. President Barack Obama appointed the largest number of women — 10 — to those top jobs, followed closely by President Bill Clinton, who appointed nine, the center reported. Trump has appointed seven.
It has taken more than two centuries for a woman to be elected vice president, more than two centuries for women to hold enough senior White House jobs to really make their voices heard. No question, there are still glass ceilings: There's never been a female White House chief of staff and, of course, no Madame President.
But we finally are poised to have a president who is showing the country how inclusive leadership can and should work. Biden, at age 78, is setting the right example.
The question now is whether the rest of America will follow suit. Will more women and people of color fill top jobs in boardrooms and newsrooms, on Wall Street, in Hollywood and everywhere in between? Will this nation take full advantage of all the talent within its shores?
It's time to shutter the old boys' club once and for all.