The White House yesterday traded contradictory statistics with critics on the number of women President Reagan has appointed to top administration jobs. The numbers exchange came the day after the president explained the absence of women on his commission on Central America by saying, "We're doing so much and appointing so many that we're no longer seeking a token or something."
The White House said its figures show that Reagan has appointed more women than has any other president, while figures compiled by the National Women's Political Caucus and the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights show Reagan trailing President Carter in female appointments.
"Ronald Reagan has done more in appointing women than any president in history . . . ," said John C. Herrington, assistant to the president for presidential personnel. "I'm telling you if appointments are the test, the president is not getting credit for all we have done.
"We have nothing to be ashamed of in our record, with the exception of judicial appointments. We could probably do a better job there, and we could probably do more in appointing ambassadors," he said.
According to White House statistics, in the first two years of his term, Reagan appointed 94 women to posts requiring Senate confirmation, compared with 76 by Carter in his first two years. In addition, the administration claims that 40 percent of the persons appointed to policy-making positions in the GS-13 to GS-15 range have been women, with an additional 176 women in the Senior Executive Service.
However, other statistics paint a different picture. For example, the political caucus' numbers credit Carter with 96 female Senate nominees in the first two years instead of the 76 reported by the Reagan White House.
Further, a study released by the Civil Rights Commission in June found that "Overall, women have received only 8 percent of the 980 appointments by President Reagan examined here, a decline from 12.1 percent for women included among President Carter's 1,182 appointments." The report studied Reagan appointments through April 20, 1983.
The political caucus agreed with the Civil Rights Commission's findings:
"During his first two years," said a statement issued by the caucus at its convention earlier this month, "Reagan named 63 women to appointed posts requiring Senate confirmation or 9 percent of his total appointments requiring confirmation . During the same period, President Carter appointed 96 women to equivalent slots, or 15 percent."
Even including the 14 women appointed during Reagan's third year, the caucus said, Reagan's current total of female appointees is 4 percent lower than Carter's two-year total.
"In fact, Reagan is the first president in over a decade who has failed to appoint more women to top-level positions than his immediate predecessor," the caucus statement said.
In addition to the conflicting numbers, there was a war of words over Reagan's statements at his news conference.
Judy Goldsmith, president of the National Organization for Women, said that Reagan's claim is "outrageous and insulting," and that the comments on tokens indicated that Reagan has "a token mentality toward women. And tokenism is precisely what we do not need, but it is all he has offered."