LAST SUMMER, a group of prominent Republican women got together under the leadership of Betty Heitman, head of the National Federation of Republican Women and co-chairman of the Republican National Committee, to form the "Target 80" program. Their goal was to put together a professional talent bank of women who were qualified for top jobs in the Reagan administration. While the "Target 80" project operated outside of the campaign, it had, according to its organizers, the full approval and support of the campaign leadership.
Working through business, professional and political networks across the country, "Target 80" has assembled hundreds of resumes of women whom Heitman describes as "well-qualified." Now, Republican women involved in the project are watching to see if President-elect Reagan is anywhere near as committed to appointing women in his administration as Candidate Reagan was. And with only one woman appointed so far -- DemocratJeanne Kirkpatrick to be U.N. ambassador -- some women are questioning whether Reagan is going to be a man of his word.
"We are extremely disappointed," says Kathy Wilson, Republican vice-chair of the National Women's Political Caucus and a leader in the bipartisan Coalition for Women's Appointments, which lobbied heavily for the appointment of Bettey Southard Murphy to the cabinet. "We're concerned generally about the reception that we're getting. We have sent in many resumes of qualified women and either they're not even beingconsidered or, judging from the women who have been considered, he is just unable to bring himself to appoint them."
"It's certainly been disappointing thus far," says Pat Goldman, a Republican appointed by President Carter to the National Transportation Safety Board, "but it's still early in theprocess and I'm hopeful they will take people from the manygood resumes that have been submitted."
"Everybody's mad because we didn't get much at the top," says Nancy Chotiner,head of the women's liaison office for the Reagan transition, "but I think at the next rung we will." She blames part of the problem on the delay that went into naming cabinet appointees and the delays inherent in the security checks process.
The effort to get qualified women placed in top administration jobs is coming from a more politically powerful part of the Republican Party than have previous efforts on behalf of women, such as the unsuccessful lobbying to keep the Equal Rights Amendment in the party platform. The push is coming not merely from Republican feminists who have not traditionally supported Reagan, but from the Republican women's federation, which is composed of conservative women who havesupported him for years. Heitman was Reagan's choice to replace ERA advocate Mary Crisp as RNC cochairman. Heitman's involvement is far more significant, says Pam Curtis of the Republican Women's Task Force, "than was our significance intrying to keep ERA in the platform. They will have access and have clout."
They do seem to be getting the access. About 10 Republican women met last Tuesday with Reagan and Vice President-elect Bush at Blair House to discuss women's issues and jobs in the administration. The meeting, which waschaired by Anne Armstrong, included Heitman, Elizabeth Dole, Murphy, Bendix vice-president Nancy Reynolds, longtime Reagan advisers Lorelei Kinder and Helene Von Damm, as well as Bobbie Greene Kilberg, a Republican feminist on the transition team and Connie Marshner, a conservative who was chairmanof the Family Board in the Reagan campaign. "It was a verygood meeting," says Chotiner. "Reagan again reinforced hiscommitment to bringing in women. That meeting was followed by a luncheon . . . for the Congresswomen's Caucus. Therewas an open, free, comfortable dialogue. One of the congresswomen said this is the first time a president has acknowledged by an invitation the existence of the Congresswomen's Caucus."
"I think the next two weeks will be the crucial thing," said one highly placed woman who asked not to be identified. "If you don't see women as deputies and undersecretaries, then that's the signal that we have serious problems.If you do see them as deputy and undersecretaries then it'sa positive sign everybody's work is paying off.
"There'sa receptivity there," she said. Instead of having to remind transition officials that there are supposed to be women candidates for jobs, she is now seeing transition officials, sending a list of jobs to Chotiner and asking for women candidates. "In the last two weeks they've turned around," saidthis woman.
"One of the hangups," says Heitman, "is theywant someone with previous government experience. I just don't buy that. I think you can bring someone in without it who can make a major contribution. You are not going to be able to increase numbers of women in government if they insist on someone having previous government experience."
But what happens if Reagan fails to live up to his commitments to the Republican women leaders? "I don't think that's goingto happen," says Heitman, "but if it does, then we will begin a lobbying effort and keep pitching and this will be ongoing as long as there are people to be placed.
"We want asmany as we can get," says Heitman. "We'd like to improve on the Carter record.We're a little bit greedy."