The biggest soundbite to come out of the second presidential debate Tuesday night (Oct. 16) was Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney‘s comment he approached women’s groups to help him find female candidates for his Massachusetts cabinet and that the groups brought him “binders full of women.”
The actual quote is, “Can’t we find some women that are also qualified? And so 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.”
But David A. Bernstein of The Phoenix says that that is not exactly an accurate depiction of what happened. Bernstein writes:
What actually happened was that in 2002 — prior to the election, not even knowing yet whether it would be a Republican or Democratic administration — a bipartisan group of women in Massachusetts formed MassGAP to address the problem of few women in senior leadership positions in state government. There were more than 40 organizations involved with the Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus (also bipartisan) as the lead sponsor.
They did the research and put together the binder full of women qualified for all the different cabinet positions, agency heads, and authorities and commissions. They presented this binder to Governor Romney when he was elected.
Bernstein goes on to write that even though then-Governor Romney appointed women to 42% of the cabinet positions, Romney supposedly only appointed women to “head departments and agencies that he didn’t care about — and in some cases, that he quite specifically wanted to not really do anything. None of the senior positions Romney cared about — budget, business development, etc. — went to women.”
Bernstein also reports that senior-level appointed positions that were held by women actually declined over the course of the Romney administration, from 30% prior to his taking office, to 27.6% by the end of his term. The percentage then began rising again when Democrat Deval Patrick took the governor’s seat.