Annie Lowrey writes that the Obama administration has appointed about as many women to high office as the Clinton administration did. Her husband, Ezra Klein, notes that this is actually a kind of regression. When Clinton was in office, there were very few women with relevant experience, so it took a lot of very active seeking to move the ball forward. The Obama administration gets to take advantage of the fact that Clinton’s efforts have left him with a deeper pool to choose from. There are also more women serving in Congress and as governor in the Obama era, further deepening the bench. But as Klein notes, we’ve had a series of situations—he notes Michèle Flournoy at the Defense Department and Lael Brainard at the Treasury Department—where there was a logical groundbreaking woman candidate who got passed over for a man who seemed less qualified in a conventional sense.
If Larry Summers get the Federal Reserve chair job over Janet Yellen, that’ll be a similar case. Not that Summers or Chuck Hagel or Jack Lew are unqualified for their jobs, exactly. It’s just that they’re all slightly more of a reach than moving a woman up the chain of command would have been. Another case one might mention is that when Summers left his job as national economic adviser, the post went to Gene Sperling (who’s unquestionably well-qualified; he’d done the job for Bill Clinton already) rather than to deputy national economic adviser Diana Farrell.