When it comes to appointing women to cabinet or cabinet-level posts, Democratic Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama were trailblazers, giving at least a third of the positions to women. But as President-elect Donald Trump starts to put together his administration, there are few female names in the mix.
According to data compiled by the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers, Clinton named a cabinet that was 41% female in his second term, which began in 1997. Similarly, at the start of his second White House term in 2013, Obama appointed a group that was 35% female. (In their first terms, both Democratic presidents appointed women to about 30% of cabinet seats.) Among Republican presidents, George W. Bush did the best job of bringing women into top positions, nominating a cadre that was 24% female in his second four years in office, which began in 2005.
While it's too soon to know how many women will make it into a Trump cabinet, such appointments will serve as a test of sorts for the president-elect. "During the campaign, Trump talked about how he valued women," says Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers. "Well, this will be a moment to see, does he want them in the room?"
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Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks has said Trump's record of hiring women will continue in his administration. “President-elect Trump has a long history of empowering and employing women at the highest levels of his company and obviously we saw this during the campaign as well,” she said, according to Bloomberg.
In the history of the U.S., just 48 women have held cabinet or cabinet-level jobs. Of that total, 31 were named by a president from the Democratic party, and 17 were appointed by a Republican commander-in-chief. Interestingly, just ten presidents—four Democrats and six Republicans—are responsible for all the female cabinet appointees.
Walsh argues that it's crucial to have women's voices at the policy-making table. "Women bring a different perspective," she says, adding, "There is such value in having a diverse group of people around the table when decisions are being made."
Of course, which women will ultimately end up in Trump's cabinet remains to be seen. But based on press reports and the Washington rumor mill, it appears that at least a handful of former and current female governors, senators, representatives, and other political operatives are in the running for such posts. Several women are being considered for the same job, so it's hard to know precisely how many will land in the new administration.
Nevertheless, here's a run-down of women who have been mentioned so far:
Ayotte, a Republican senator from New Hampshire since 2011, is being considered for secretary of Defense, or possibly ambassador to the United Nations, according to the New York Times. Ayotte, who lost her bid for re-election last week to New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan, is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Brewer, the former governor of Arizona, is thought to be a candidate for secretary of the interior. Brewer, who was one of Trump's big supporters in Arizona, told a Phoenix radio station after the election that while she hasn't given a cabinet post "a whole lot of thought," it would be "an awesome opportunity."
Palin, who was Arizona Senator John McCain's vice presidential pick in the 2008 presidential campaign, was governor of Alaska from 2006 through 2009. Currently a political commentator, Palin's also been mentioned as a potential Interior Department secretary.
Fallin, the current governor of Oklahoma, is another woman being mentioned as a possible Interior Department head. A former member of the House, Fallin campaigned for Trump in several western states. She has two years left on her term as governor, but has said she would consider a cabinet post if Trump offered her one.
Likewise, Lummis, the outgoing member of the House of Representatives from Wyoming, has been mentioned as a potential secretary of the Interior. Lummis, who did not run for re-election, is being replaced in the House by Liz Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney.
McMahon, a former World Wrestling Entertainment executive, is being mentioned as a possible Commerce Department secretary. She and her husband, WWE CEO Vince McMahon are long-time friends of Trump, who has made appearances on WWE programs. In addition to helping run the professional wrestling organization, Linda McMahon’s resume includes serving on the Connecticut Board of Education for a little over a year starting in 2009, and running for a Senate seat in Connecticut in 2010 and 2012, though she lost both times.
Lipnic, a commissioner of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission since 2010, has been pointed to as a possible Labor Department secretary. She was nominated by Obama to serve a second term at the EEOC that ends on July 1, 2020. Prior to working at the EEOC, Lipnic was of counsel to the law firm Seyfarth Shaw in Washington.
Comer, the commissioner of Indiana's Department of Environmental Management, has been mentioned as a potential administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. Comer was appointed by Vice President-elect Mike Pence, in his capacity as governor of the state. According to her official bio, at the law firm Lewis and Roca in Phoenix, Arizona, she represented companies on environmental and utility matters, including insurance recovery, real estate and corporate environmental due diligence. It also says she provided "defense against agency actions."
Rutledge, the attorney general of Arkansas, is another possible candidate to head the EPA. In her tenure as AG, she fought EPA rules on emissions, and last year joined 15 other states who were asking the EPA to stay its Clean Power Plan on the basis that the agency was exceeding its authority under the Clean Air Act and the Constitution.
Bondi, the attorney general of Florida, has been mentioned by the Miami Herald as someone who could get a top job under Trump. But she has come under fire for a $25,000 gift from the president-elect. The contribution became controversial after critics claimed it swayed the AG's decision not to investigate scandal-plagued, now-defunct Trump University.
Ronna Romney McDaniel
McDaniel is a contender for the Republican National Committee chair position, which is not a cabinet post, but will be a high-profile role under President Trump. The job was just vacated by Trump's new chief of staff, Reince Priebus. McDaniel is the current chairwoman of the Michigan GOP and the niece of one of Trump's loudest critics, 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. “I’ll be interested in whatever Mr. Trump wants,” McDaniel told The Associated Press on Monday, adding that she was planning to seek the Michigan GOP chairmanship again.
Conway, who made history last week by becoming the first woman to run a successful presidential campaign, is not expected to get a cabinet role. But she is poised to become one of the most powerful women in Washington. Conway’s recent flurry of media appearances—she was on NBC’s Meet the Press and Fox News Sunday over the weekend—as well as the Washington rumor mill seem to point to her being under consideration for the role of White House press secretary, according to Politico.