Women's groups lobbying hard for top jobs

December 11, 1992|By John Fairhall | John Fairhall,Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- Determined to make President-elect Bil Clinton live up to his pledge to have an "administration that looks like America," women's groups are lobbying hard to have women named to jobs historically held by men.

In his first personnel announcements yesterday Mr. Clinton designated Alice M. Rivlin, former head of the Congressional Budget Office, to be deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget.

Although that's a senior position, it's not the top post in the budget agency and would not satisfy the desires of women's groups to see women named to leading economic posts.

"We would be disappointed if every top economic job were filled, and there were no women among them," said Nancy Duff Campbell, co-president of the National Women's Law Center.

Ms. Campbell and other leaders of women's groups have made it clear to Mr. Clinton and his advisers that they expect him to break barriers that have kept women from holding certain Cabinet posts, especially those referred to as the "big four" agencies: Defense, State, Treasury and Justice. Organizations representing blacks and Hispanics are similarly interested. Last week, women's groups held an unpublicized meeting with Clinton transition chairman Vernon E. Jordan and other officials amid news reports that Mr. Clinton's choices for leading economic policy jobs were white men. In the days following that meeting, Clinton aides began leaking the names of women who are likely to be appointed to what have been male bastions in government: for attorney general, federal appellate court Judge Patricia M. Wald, and as head of the Council of Economic Advisers, economist Laura Tyson of the University of California at Berkeley.

Women's groups cheered the reports about Judge Wald. "It's very exciting," Ms. Campbell said, adding with a laugh: "We'd like Treasury, State and Defense also."

Mr. Clinton designated Texas Sen. Lloyd Bentsen yesterday to be Treasury secretary and is not believed to be considering women for secretary of defense or secretary of state. But women's groups say their goals include high-level appointments below the secretary level.

Democratic consultant Wendy Sherman said these jobs are a "stepping stone to future Cabinet secretaries and future leaders."

Women say they're pleased by the efforts Clinton aides have made to work with them and search for talented women to fill jobs. "I think they have been reaching out," Ms. Campbell said. Even before the election was held, an organization of 70 groups called the Coalition for Women's Appointments began compiling names of women. It publicized an initial list of 79 women who could serve in top posts and later privately gave a list of 26 to Mr. Clinton's team. Now the coalition is developing lists of women qualified for lower-level jobs.

Prominent individual women, including Maryland Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, also are suggesting names.

Just this week, Carol Tucker Foreman, a political consultant and assistant secretary of agriculture in the Carter administration, became a special assistant to transition personnel chief Richard Riley, to help in the recruitment of women and minority candidates.

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