PRESIDENT REAGAN'S FAILURE to appoint women to high-level jobs in his administration has become so conspicuous that it is now drawing criticism from Republican women in every sector of the party -- including the redoubtable Phillis Schafly, founder of The Eagle Forum and Stop ERA, and the most influential conservative woman leader in the country.
"I'm not one who thinks women should have been hired just because they are women or that 50 percent of those hired should be women, but I certainly think there are enough to have had some appointments," she said in a telephone interview. "I counted up the first 57 appointments and only four of them were women and there are certainly more than that who are qualified."
Republican women feel they are enormously effective in electing Ronald Reagan, and quite logically, they want some of the spoils. They also realize that a number of agencies have programs that are of particular interest to women and they want to have to say in what happens to them.
Betty Heitman, president of the National Federation of Republican Women and cochairman of the Republican National Committee, has become so alarmed at the steady march of white men into policy jobs that she wrote the president about it last week, bluntly describing the appointment record as "not good to date."
Heitman praised Reagan for telling his cabinet officers to hire women and minorities, and restated her goal of "achieving a better record than any previous administration." She told Reagan about the talent bank of 500 "highly qualified women" that has been put together by the RNC and the federation and that their resumes have been submitted to the administration. Heitman said she made sure through an emissary that the president saw the letter.
"I really and truly think the people who are over there are hiring the people they know," says Heitman, "and I think one of the other problems is there is a tendency to want to appoint people who've had previous government experience. I take issue with that criterion."
"It's a process that by its very nature would not produce women," says Schlafly. "It's a process of finding business executives regardless of ideology, and given that type of process you won't find many women and you wouldn't find a majority of Reagan people. . . The process was to approach it like a business executive staffing a new company.I do not believe the people voted to have businessmen running the country. I believe they voted to have Reagan conservatives run the country."
Schlafly says she thinks Heitman's talent bank project has been "filed in the bottom drawer and maybe in the circular file. I think Betty Heitman is very capable and has a fine project. I think she should have been in on the inner councils of the hiring. I think her recommendations should have been paid attention to. . . They haven't made use of her, her organization or her contacts."
Lorelei Kinder, a California conservative who as national political coordinator was the senior woman in the Reagan campaign from the primaries on, flew to Washington last week to discuss the problem with White House officials. One of the things she learned, she said, is that three women have been offered under secretary jobs and in one case a secretary job, but that they turned them down. "They [administration officials] are taking a bad rap in some areas where they shouldn't be," she says. "I do believe many good women who have supported President Reagan are going to be appointed."
The dearth of women in substantive administration jobs is bringing Republican women together in a way they have not been since the bloody infighting in 1967 over who would lead the Republican women's federation. Phyllis Schlafly lost that fight to a moderate and had not had much time for the federation ever since. Now she is aligning herself with Heitman's postion on the appointment of women.
President Reagan brought up the issue of appointments of women and minorities at a cabinet meeting last week and a woman has been given responsibility in the personal office to work on the appointment problem. Republican women leaders are hoping to see results, but some have already begun discussing strategy about what to do if they don't.
They are keenly aware of who does the work in the party and it has occurred to them that the various Republican women's organizations, ranging from the Feminist Republican Women's Task Force to the federation to the Schlafly wing, might get together and let the White House know that to them, at least, this is no laughing matter. "These are the people who do the work," said one woman, "and if they don't get the rewards for doing the work, you may not have the workers."
Radical talk from a Republican woman, but the message for the Reagan administration couldn't be clearer. Republican women simply aren't content to lick postage stamps anymore.