no girls allowed! Why the Obama administration needs hormone therapy

Posted: January 11, 2013 in human rights, Obama, politics, women's rights
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cautionmenworkingRosa Brooks, a professor at the Georgetown University Law Center, where she teaches courses on international law, national security and constitutional law, published this article two days ago…it’s a good read!

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Oh boy!

Or maybe I should say: Oh, boys!

Because here we go again! As a female columnist at Foreign Policy, it is apparently my solemn duty to point out that President Obama has populated the top ranks of the national security and foreign-policy establishment exclusively with fellas. Where are those binders full of women when you need them.

In his cabinet choices so far, President Obama has even managed to take a step backward from his first term, replacing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the sole woman allowed into the clubhouse, with Senator John Kerry. Obama let Susan Rice, a smart, tough, accomplished woman and an obvious choice to replace Clinton, be driven out by rock-throwing little boys from the Hill. Then, for defense secretary, he inexplicably selected former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel over Michèle Flournoy, the universally respected former undersecretary of defense for policy (and a Democrat to boot, not that I’m counting or anything).

So here’s what Obama’s second-term national security and foreign-policy team looks like, so far: Secretary of defense? White guy. Secretary of state? White guy. CIA director? White guy. Director of national intelligence? White guy. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff? White guy. White House chief of staff? White guy. National security advisor? White guy.il_fullxfull.200389885

To use one of President Obama’s favorite phrases, “Let me be clear”: I have nothing against white guys. I have a white guy for a father, two white guys as brothers, and a white-guy husband. I love them all. But all the same, it sure would be nice to see a few more girls in the club. In particular, President Obama missed a historic opportunity to be the president who appoints the first female secretary of defense.

It’s fine to say that such critical foreign-policy and national security positions ought to go to the best guy for the job, but sometimes, the best guy is a woman.

Pick your favorite realm of action.

Investing? Studies show that female investors are less prone to risky investment decisions than their male counterparts — and over time, they consistently earn higher returns. Preventing civil conflict? High rates of female inclusion in national governments seem to be correlated with lower rates of civil conflict.

Development? In developing countries, investing in education for girls is more strongly correlated with economic growth than anything else. Investing in men, on the other hand, turns out not to be such a great idea much of the time. Women who participate in microfinance programs are more likely to make timely repayment, comply with program rules, and use credit to benefit their families and communities. Men, not so much. Similarly, in refugee camps, aid agencies have found that when you distribute food aid to women, they use it for the benefit of their families — men, on the other hand, are more apt to sell the food to buy something for themselves.

no-girls-allowed1I’m not arguing that if only women ruled the world, we’d all live in peace and harmony because women are just naturally nicer and kinder and more nurturing than men. (There’s a two-word refutation to that little fantasy: Margaret Thatcher. In fact, history’s chock full of bloodthirsty gals.) But the numbers don’t lie — and though causation is far harder to determine than correlation, the correlations are pretty suggestive. Virtually across the board, increasing female participation in an enterprise appears to be correlated with better outcomes.

Perhaps that’s because (some? most?) women are “different” in some inherent way; perhaps it has nothing to do with biology and everything to do with the roles women are currently socialized into playing; perhaps it’s simply that diverse groups tend to be more resistant to the perils of “groupthink” and better at generating creative solutions than homogeneous groups. (This last would suggest that populations in which women are over-represented might end up prone to some of the same problems as populations in which women are under-represented).

Comments
  1. Bruce Baker-Rooks says:

    It would be nice to see a few women in these positions, however, I have to disagree that replacing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with John Kerry is “a step backward”. If we are judging progression or regression on gender only, then that is sexist regardless of what gender the people involved are. John Kerry is a brilliant person who will do very well in his new position. Susan Rice, although a very brilliant person as well, chose to withdraw her name from consideration because of the hoopla around her involvement with Benghazi. Was it justified, probably not, but it became clear that her confirmation was going to be difficult and she decided she didn’t want to go through that. I don’t know what other names were available for consideration, but perhaps those nominated are the best qualified, and perhaps President Obama approached others, including women, who declined to be considered. We need to remember, gender does not qualify or disqualify anyone from any position.

    • I totally agree: frankly I am tired of all the obsession with race and gender composition. I would rather work for a good guy than an insecure woman, even though I am a woman. Are there good women out there? Sure, but their gender should not advance them to the head of the line. I personally have seen white males sidelined for stupid reasons like the ones above.

    • Anonymous says:

      I agree. It’s really hard to balance the need for better representation of women (minorities, too) in places of power with the reality of “best man for the job.” It’s easy to go extreme in either direction.

  2. Anonymous says:

    This is hard stuff – hard to balance – I totally agree with the above comments.

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