President Biden has nominated the most diverse Cabinet in U.S. history. Five women have already been confirmed by the Senate, breaking the previous record of four women set by George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. Along with a female vice president of color, this Cabinet is a huge step forward for women’s representation in positions of power.
“The U.S. is the only country in North America that does not have a gender parity Cabinet.” —Karen Beckwith, Professor of Political Science at Case Western Reserve University
However, looking at the Cabinets of other countries, we’re reminded that the U.S. is still behind in gender parity. Spain, France, Canada and Mexico all have Cabinets with equal gender staffing. Five out of 15 positions filled by women in the U.S. is still nowhere near equal representation.
Listen: Professor Karen Beckwith talks about women in Biden’s Cabinet, including Jennifer Granholm.
Karen Beckwith is a professor of political science at Case Western Reserve University and author of “Cabinets, Ministers, and Gender.” She recently wrote an article in the Washington Post titled “Biden will have more women in his Cabinet than any president ever. Other countries still do better.” She says Biden’s diverse Cabinet is significant in more ways than one. ”This will be the first time a Cabinet has been formed following a first election where there are six nonwhite members of Cabinet.” Beckwith says there’s more women nominated than ever before, but we’re still nowhere near other countries when it comes to representation of women in power. “The U.S. is the only country in North America that does not have a gender parity Cabinet,” she says.
Beckwith says women nominated for Cabinet positions face scrutiny based on their qualifications, but there are actually very few formal rules about what’s required in terms of merit for an appointment. “To be Secretary of Energy (for instance) you don’t have to have any particular degree. The attacks on the basis of merit are often directed toward women.” Beckwith believes that gender parity within the Cabinet should be a priority in the U.S., especially with so many qualified women in power. ”We certainly have enough women already to staff a full Cabinet.”
Web story written by Nora Rhein.