What are the chances that the Obama administration has ever rejected the most qualified candidate for a job because that individual was female, rather than let out a large “Huzzah” and rush her name to the Senate? Exactly zero. Every executive appointment triggers a frenzied search for “diverse” candidates, with a (white) male chosen only if he is head and shoulders above the competition. And yet here comes the New York Times applying that hoary journalistic topos—“Count the females”—to the Obama administration, declaring that the White House has a problem because “only” 43 percent of its appointees have been women.
A front-page article last week opened with what the editors apparently believed was an important and troubling observation: “In an Oval Office meeting on Dec. 29, 11 of President Obama’s top advisers stood before him discussing the heated fiscal negotiations. The 10 visible in a White House photo are men.” The Times helpfully provided the smoking-gun photo—the ten males awkwardly arrayed far across the room from a seated Obama, some in three-quarter view, like beauty contestants. That the president’s press office circulated the image at all is the only newsworthy item in the Times’s otherwise drearily formulaic article. Who would have guessed that the Obama White House still possessed enough lingering innocence regarding gender politics to release such a red flag to the media, apparently under the misimpression that the image simply recorded a meeting of the president’s inner circle rather than provide a searing portrait of the patriarchy in action? The administration and its successors will never make such a mistake again.
Having established the state of national emergency, the Times went on to ring the usual changes on the bean-counting theme, carefully charting each agency’s gender breakdown and quoting “experts” in the heretofore unknown field of the “representation of women in government and business” on the administration’s dereliction of its female- hiring duties. The fact that the White House itself is virtually half-female did not assuage the Times’s righteous indignation.
The Times offered no examples of a patently superior female candidate being rejected for a second-rate male, beyond citing Michèle Flournoy as a plausible candidate for Secretary of Defense (Obama has nominated Chuck Hagel) and three other names for chief of staff and Treasury Secretary. Flournoy was a think-tank defense wonk whose appointment as—sound the trumpets—the first female Under Secretary of Defense for Policy in 2009 may or may not have been the product of the same gender-quota pressures that the Times is now exerting. In the era of bean-counting, you can never know (except when you can). Flournoy is undoubtedly highly capable, but it is ludicrous to think that Obama chose decorated vet Hagel, with his long public-service career and ideologically compatible record on many defense matters, simply because the president couldn’t stand the idea of a female Secretary of Defense.
Absent a showing that gender discrimination is causing the selection of inferior leaders, the sex of politicians and government officials is of no public import. And feminists’ cherished conceit that women today face a wall of overt or unconscious bias rests on deliberate blindness to the facts. No elite organization today fails to incorporate oppressive gender and race consciousness into its every hiring and promotion decision. Any woman in the public realm not acutely aware that her gender is a plus in getting selected for panels and media appearances, in all likelihood catapulting her ahead of more qualified male participants, is living in a state of denial.
It’s equally absurd to presume that without gender bias, every discipline would be perfectly gender-balanced. Talent pools vary over time, and males and females are not necessarily drawn to the same fields or activities in identical numbers. The Times does not complain that “only” 41 percent of the administration’s appointees to the Department of Health and Human Services are male, yet such a skew should, according to the Times’s world view, suggest anti-male discrimination. The overall 43 percent female representation among Obama’s appointees is in fact surprisingly high, given the disproportionate heft of the Defense, Energy, and Veterans Affairs Departments. That feminists now view a mere 7- to 8-percent variance from mathematically perfect representation as a casus belli shows how deep is their commitment to maintaining female victim status and how imperialistic are their ambitions. The Times is silent about the fact that the lowest ratio of female appointments—32 percent—was at the Justice Department. Why might that be?
Predictably, the Times’s article triggered a flurry of tongue-clucking copycat stories in other media venues, putting further pressure on the administration to explain its alleged anti-female animus. On Monday, a Times reporter pressed further on the gender- imbalance theme at a White House news conference. Obama defended his record but promised to wow the critics with the “diversity” of his future appointments. Sadly for gender-blind meritocracy, he will surely deliver on this pledge.