Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Binders Full of Women. Or on the Second Presidential Debate.

Did you watch the second presidential debate?   I couldn't get to it until today.  What's hard about that delay is trying not to "pre-hear"  how those zillions of external judges rated the two contestants in style and difficulty and truthiness points.   I mostly managed to cover my ears and go tralalala-can't-hear-you  but not quite.  Thus, I heard that Obama did better and might even have won those style points, before I watched the video.

And better he did. 

Now about the contents:  The "binders full of women" is obviously the bit I should discuss here.  It cropped up because of this question from Katherine Fenton in the audience:
In what new ways to you intend to rectify the inequalities in the workplace, specifically regarding females making only 72 percent of what their male counterparts earn?

Fenton, by the way, was attacked at a conservative site.   That's not kosher, in my view.  Are we now going to do a search on every person asking questions and spread the findings on the clothes lines all over the Internet?  There's a point in making sure that the questions don't come from insiders in either campaign but other than that?  It's just gross, and might make people hesitant about presenting questions altogether.

In any case, and without going on a long side-track about the contents of Fenton's question (see my Gender Gap series for more details), Romney in his answer brought up his record as the governor of Massachusetts:

Thank you. And important topic, and one which I learned a great deal about, particularly as I was serving as governor of my state, because I had the chance to pull together a cabinet and all the applicants seemed to be men.

I went to a number of women's groups and said, "Can you help us find folks," and they brought us whole binders full of women.
I was proud of the fact that after I staffed my Cabinet and my senior staff, that the University of New York in Albany did a survey of all 50 states, and concluded that mine had more women in senior leadership positions than any other state in America.
 But David Bernstein at the Boston Phoenix writes that Romney didn't initiate this process:

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.

 Bernstein also notes that while Romney's record of hiring women was good in comparison to what went on in the other states, he appointed women to run those parts of the state government he didn't care about, and

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.)

I was enjoying the two candidates telling us how they were the best-friends-forever to all those undecided women voters out there.  It's one of the few times in a decade that something like that happens!  Never mind if the emotions are real or not, that show was kinda fun to watch:  Two newly recruited feminist guys...

This doesn't mean that there's no difference between the platforms of Romney and Obama when it comes to issues that matter more to women than men,  on average.  If Obama has somewhat neglected those issues during his term, Romney would not neglect them, nosirr! 

He'd actively pursue and chase every single fundamental Christian belief about women's reproductive rights, starting with his promise to put back the global gag rule on abortion, and he'd actively ignore supporting any attempts to make sex discrimination at workplaces harder.