Women want more top appointments Some disappointment expressed over early Clinton picks

December 17, 1992|By Knight-Ridder Newspapers

WASHINGTON -- Bill Clinton has named a handful of strong highly regarded women to top posts in his administration, but some women helping his transition team say it's not enough.

"I can't say I'm ecstatic over where we are right now," said Kay Pierson, a Washington businesswoman who gave the transition team names of women for key economic posts, but came away disappointed with the results.

"His immediate advisers are white males, and his transition governing board is dominated by white males," Ms. Pierson said. "The key economic positions are white men appointees. . . .

"He said he wants 'a government that looks like America,' " she said. "Women are 50 percent of America."

Women's advocates are quick to point out that only one of four Cabinet positions named thus far has been a woman -- University of Wisconsin Chancellor Donna Shalala to be health and human services secretary.

Women have found a glass ceiling in top government jobs. There have never been more than two female Cabinet secretaries -- out of 14 -- serving at one time. And they have never run the departments of state, defense, treasury, justice, interior, agriculture, energy and veterans affairs.

In other top appointments, women have fared better, snaring half of those named, including Carol Browner to head the Environmental Protection Agency and, reportedly, Dr. Joycelyn Elders to be surgeon general. But even the two women named to top economic jobs are playing second fiddle to men.

Moreover, women are concerned that only men have made the "short list" for the powerful posts of secretary of state and defense, as well as for secretary of housing and urban development, interior, energy, agriculture and transportation. Several women are reportedly leading contenders for attorney general.

"We are sending out alarm messages to everyone, saying now is the time to appoint women and prevent a winter of discontent," said Harriett Woods, chairwoman of the Coalition for Women's Appointments.

Asked to respond, Clinton communications director George Stephanopoulos said yesterday, "We're not done yet . . . The governor is very proud of his appointments" of women.

"We're making good progress but we have a lot of appointments to go," he said.

Women's advocates said they would not be satisfied if Mr. Clinton appointed a woman as attorney general -- which would be a breakthrough for women -- and stopped there.

What causes concern, they say, is the impact of Mr. Clinton's largely white male transition staff on appointments.

"You really have to have someone inside in the transition" lobbying for women, said Ms. Woods. "Frankly, it's Hillary now."

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