President Obama named two long-term aides to his Cabinet on Thursday, rounding out the list of senior advisers who will help him lead during his second term. Now, only three of the 28 top Cabinet-level, White House adviser and senior agency leader jobs are held by people rumored to be leaving or for whom nominations have not yet been made.
The president named billionaire Penny Pritzker, daughter of the co-founder of the Hyatt hotel chain and a real estate investor, as his pick for commerce secretary. He also nominated Michael Froman, the deputy national security adviser for international economic affairs, to the post of U.S. trade representative.
So how is the diversity of his second-term advisers shaping up now that the list is nearly complete? When it comes to racial and ethnic diversity, he’s definitely faring poorer than he did during his first term. New nominations include Anthony Foxx, the mayor of Charlotte, to be transportation secretary; and Tom Perez, a Dominican American, to lead the Department of Labor. But as the list of advisers currently stands, the president has a net loss of one African American, one Latin American and one Asian American.
Meanwhile, despite much early criticism, the number of women in top positions actually remains pretty similar. Kathleen Sebelius, Janet Napolitano, Susan Rice and Valerie Jarrett are all staying on board. And while the president has lost Hillary Clinton and Hilda Solis, two new women are being added to the Cabinet: Sally Jewell at the Department of Interior and Sylvia Mathews Burwell at OMB. While no one has yet been named to replace Small Business Administration head Karen Mills, the president could still nominate a woman. And if confirmed, Pritzker will replace a woman, acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank.
One type of diversity where Pritzker and Froman won’t help, however, is in adding fresh outside voices to the mix. Pritzker is a longtime Obama fundraiser, acting as national finance chairwoman for his 2008 campaign and co-chair for the president’s reelection campaign in 2012. Froman, meanwhile, is a law school classmate of Obama’s and has been a member of the president’s team since early 2009. One can already hear the howls of protest over the addition of more inner-circle types to his team.
Some of that criticism may be unfair: The president has a right to choose whom he wants and who he believes is best suited for the job. To be a functioning team, he needs people he works well with and trusts. And yet, for a leader who has long been criticized as being too insular, more could certainly be done to add another kind of diversity—those who haven’t worked alongside the president for years. On that front, the addition of Pritzker and Froman will change very little.
Jena McGregor is a columnist for On Leadership.