Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Squrirel of the Day: "Binders of Women"

With very few exceptions (this post being one of them) you can dismiss anyone bringing up Mitt Romney's line about "binders full of women" as a completely unserious political hack.  For some reason, they think this reflects poorly on him as regards his beliefs about women (I'm really not sure how they got there) so let's go and look at what he actually said:

ROMNEY: 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.

And I -- and I went to my staff, and I said, "How come all the people for these jobs are -- are all men." They said, "Well, these are the people that have the qualifications." And I said, "Well, gosh, can't we -- can't we find some -- some women that are also qualified?"

ROMNEY: And -- and so we -- we took a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet.

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.

Now one of the reasons I was able to get so many good women to be part of that team was because of our recruiting effort. But number two, because I recognized that if you're going to have women in the workforce that sometimes you need to be more flexible. My chief of staff, for instance, had two kids that were still in school.

Do you see anything objectionable there?  He saw a hole forming in his leadership team- his Cabinet would have been all male.  That is actually a problem.  While diversity, for its own sake, is not a huge virtue, there really are ways of thinking about things that woman brings to the table that a man does not.  Having women in all trades just to have women in all trades is silly.  Making sure your senior leadership staff is as diverse a mix as you can reasonably achieve makes a lot of sense.

Having spotted the problem, he then took specific steps to solve it: find women who were qualified.  Note that he didn't make any statement about finding women who were "good enough."  I'm certain that had there really not been any women available who were qualified for what he wanted them to do, he wouldn't have selected them, diversity or no.  He set his staff about the job of finding qualified candidates who were female.

Having found "binders full" of candidates (obviously he's talking about their resumes or personnel files) he then also noted that he had to make some sacrifices.  If anywhere, this is where I disagree with him.  Part of being qualified is being available.  If you want to be the primary bread-winner of your family, and work in any kind of high office (from a Governor's cabinet to being a C-Level employee at a large corporation), one of the sacrifices you have to make is time with your family.  Men are expected to do this all the time, I don't see why women can't do the same- or make the choice not to go as high on the corporate ladder. 

Whatever my thoughts on the matter, he made his decision.  For all of his years as Governor, he then had the most women in senior positions of any of his contemporaries.  If you're looking at it as a numbers game (too many supposed feminists do), that's a good thing.

A couple of other points here.  The original question was about "wage equality," and the myth that women make less than men.  It was initially addressed to Mr. Obama who brought up the Lilly Ledbetter Act.  Two major problems here: first, the Lilly Ledbetter Act is stupid.  It doesn't actually address wage equality, it simply gives women more ways to sue their employers if they decide later that they weren't given "equal pay for equal work," and puts the onus on the employer to disprove the accusation.  Second, I wish Mr. Romney had asked the President, "So, if wage equality is so important to you, why do you pay female staff, on average, 17% less (or whatever the actual number is -DT) than your male staff?"  Maybe he would have brought it up if he'd been given a chance to respond to Mr. Obama's response, but, as with so many other times in the debate, he was not.

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