If anyone wants to really dig into the facts, I will match our record against any other administration that has ever been here with regard to what we have accomplished for women. -- President Reagan, July 1983

I criticized Jimmy Carter for having too few women in important positions. But Ronald Reagan is light years behind Carter. -- Rep. Patricia Schroeder (D-Colo.), October 1983 By Cass Peterson Washington Post Staff Writer

Even in a city known for its dexterity at juggling figures, this shouldn't be difficult to answer: Who has appointed more women to high-level government jobs, President Carter or President Reagan?

Yet the question has darted back and forth between the White House and a leading House Democrat for more than two years, no closer to resolution now than at the start.

The answer, it appears, depends not only on which appointees you count, but also on how often you count them.

The battle flared anew last week when Rep. Patricia Schroeder (D-Colo.) released a study by her House Post Office and Civil Service subcommittee on civil service, comparing the records of Carter and Reagan on appointing women in three major job categories. The study found that Reagan's record was, to use Schroeder's term, "pitiful."

According to the subcommittee's study, Reagan had appointed 1,723 persons to jobs requiring Senate confirmation, including high-level department and agency jobs, boards and commissions, and judgeships. Of those, 184, or 10.7 percent, were women. The study found that Carter had named 1,347 persons to similar positions; 232 of them, or 17.2 percent, were women.

As further evidence, Schroeder attached the names of all of the appointees.

Schroeder's statistics come from no less an unimpeachable source than the Congressional Record, but the White House is not conceding the match.

"We'll stand by our record," said deputy personnel director Becky Norton Dunlop. "The names were accurate, but I don't know about the numbers being accurate."

By Dunlop's account, Reagan has made 3,733 appointments to executive positions and part-time commissions and boards. Of those, 566, 15.3 percent, went to women. The office could not provide the comparable Carter administration figures.

At the root of this numerical welter is a difference in the way each side computes its figures, not to mention which figures each side computes.

The White House statistics, for example, include Senate-confirmed jobs and presidential appointments that do not require Senate approval. According to a Schroeder aide, her study examined only Senate-confirmed jobs, "because for the other categories you have to rely on White House data, and we can't get any data from the White House."

Moreover, the White House keeps records on appointments, not people. Its list of 3,733 appointments includes some jobs that have been filled two or more times as well as the names of people who have been appointed to more than one position.

If Jane Doe is named to one administration job, for example, then is moved to a second or even a third, the White House chalks up Jane Doe each time. Thus, on the White House list, the Justice Department's Carol Dinkins is counted twice -- as an assistant attorney general, later as deputy attorney general.

Similarly, if Jane Doe is appointed to a full-time administration job and by virtue of that office is nominated to some advisory boards, the White House counts each as a separate appointment.

"Our judgment is that every time a decision is made, that counts," said Dunlop.

Schroeder's study, by contrast, allows only one hash mark for Jane Doe, no matter how many times Jane changes jobs or how many additional jobs she takes on.

"Jeane Kirkpatrick Reagan's ambassador to the United Nations was confirmed eight times, to advisory commissions and the like. We counted her once," Schroeder's aide said. "The same thing happened in the last administration. Carol Tucker Foreman an assistant secretary of agriculture under Carter was confirmed to six positions. We counted her once."

While this face-off continues, a new digital controversy is brewing over another set of personnel records.

The AFL-CIO's Public Employe Department has charged the Reagan administration with bloating the ranks of political appointees, saying that so-called "Schedule C" jobs -- the ones reserved for party loyalists -- are up more than 50 percent.

By the union's count, the administration has filled 2,712 such jobs, compared to 1,793 under Carter. Similarly, the number of noncareer appointments to the Senior Executive Service grew from 579 under Carter to 684, the union said.

"I don't know where they got their figures. They're way off," said Mark Tapscott of the Office of Personnel Management.

The OPM's own figures give the Carter administration, at its high-water mark in September 1980, 799 noncareer SES jobs and 1,566 Schedule C jobs.

In contrast, the OPM says, at the Reagan administration's high point the figures were 696 for SES jobs, 1,665 for Schedule C.