Because wimmin just don't make the grade...
Ezra Klein points out that not only has Obama appointed fewer women than Clinton did two decades ago, he has no excuse for not appointing a lot more:
When the Clinton administration promised a cabinet that “looked like America,” it had a tough job in front of it. When Bill Clinton took office, no White House had ever given more than 18 percent of cabinet-level positions to women. Women were also far less likely to serve as members of Congress or governors than they are today. That meant the Clinton administration’s search for qualified female candidates was harder. But administration officials found them.
The Obama administration’s job is easier. The Clinton administration’s success appointing more women to cabinet-level (and sub-cabinet level) positions should’ve made it easier for the Obama administration to build on their numbers. The success women have had getting elected to Congress and to governorships should’ve further helped matters. And, by and large, it did.
When the Obama administration went looking for a new Secretary of Defense, Under Secretary Michelle Flournoy, who got her start in Clinton’s Pentagon, was right there. When they went looking for a new Treasury Secretary, Under Secretary Lael Brainard, another Clinton vet, was an obvious choice. Now that they’re looking for a Fed chair, Vice Chair Janet Yellen seems like the obvious choice. Anyone want to guess where Yellen got her start?
The reason the Obama administration’s record appointing women is worse than the Clinton administration’s record is that the Obama administration keeps choosing not to appoint qualified women. Administration officials passed over Flournoy for ex-Sen. Chuck Hagel. They passed over Brainard for Jack Lew. They passed over acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank — yes, she served under Clinton, too — for CEA chair. It looks likely that they’ll pass over Yellen for Larry Summers.
It has been obvious for some time that this administration is only tepidly interested in advancing women's equality, at least to the extent that it might cost them something to do it. The president only wants to work closely with people with whom he feels "comfortable" (whatever that means) and very few women seem to fit that bill for some reason. Odd.
It's a huge missed opportunity. It takes time and effort for a party to build a bench and it's a terrible shame to waste any chance to advance equality. And when some people make the argument that Obama had such big problems to deal with that he couldn't put that goal before solving them, it just makes the loyalty to Larry Summers all the more understandable. After all, the idea that women just aren't quite smart enough or strong enough or savvy enough to get the job done is one of the views for which Summers is best known.