Al Kamen takes a look at Barack Obama’s early appointments and concludes “Thirty-eight of the 56 appointees (68 percent) are men, (But white men, representing 46 percent of all picks, fall short of a majority.)” Kay Steiger remarks that “if you were expecting Obama to be a shining beacon of diversity in the upper tiers of the government’s elite, you are bound to be disappointed.”
In racial terms, though, Obama’s team actually is quite diverse. It’s 70 percent non-Hispanic white in a country that’s 68 percent non-Hispanic white. When you consider that whites represent a disproportionately large share of the “middle aged and college educated” sub-cohort that gets consideration for high-level executive branch jobs, Anglo whites are probably somewhat underrepresented, reflecting the extent to which the Democratic Party is largely composed of ethnic minorities. And, obviously, the President himself is African-American. It’s in terms of appointing women that there’s a clearer case to be made that Obama’s falling short. The basic demographics of the Democratic Party point toward an administration that’s mostly women. But of course most Democratic members of congress are men. Same with the senators and the governors and the former Clinton administration officials. So it’s natural to see the cycle re-inscribed in the Obama administration. But structurally, the relative paucity of women in important public positions is both unfair and a substantial drag on the progressive talent pool. The need to recruit people with experience means that it’s not possible to expect a sudden leap to equality, but it is reasonable to hope for steady improvement. At this point I’d say too few people have really been appointed to say how Obama fares on that score, but he ought to be aspiring to have the most equal split ever.