White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, arguably the most visible woman in the administration, marked the historic day by making a jab at the Democratic Party’s relationship with women.
Haspel's elevation means there are now six women out of 24 people in Cabinet and Cabinet-level positions in the Trump administration, increasing the percentage of women Cabinet members to 25 percent.
In the first Cabinets of their administrations, President Barack Obama had seven women out of 22 (31 percent) as Cabinet-level advisers, and President George W. Bush had four women out of 21 people (19 percent). Former president Bill Clinton had six women out of 23 people (26 percent) in Cabinet and Cabinet-level positions initially.
Women aren't as well represented as you step down from the Cabinet level. In a September analysis, American Bridge 21st Century, a liberal super PAC that monitors Republican candidates, found that 80 percent of nominations for top jobs in the Trump administration have gone to men, which had Trump on track to assemble the most male-dominated federal government in nearly a quarter-century.
Getting women into the top levels of government leadership is essential to ensuring that the needs of a population are addressed, Victoria Budson, executive director of the Women and Public Policy Program at the Harvard Kennedy School, told The Fix.
“Women are 51 percent of the talent pool in the United States,” she said. “Currently, women receive the majority of high school, associate's, college and postgraduate degrees. If as a nation we're investing in the education of women and they're then not utilizing that talent in the marketplace, then we aren’t bringing to bear important resources.
“Additionally, expertise and technical capacity is meaningful in any position. However, we also rely on our own life experiences to help us define policy. Ensuring that leaders within the United States have shared life experiences with the people who are being governed can be critical to getting it right in policymaking,” Budson added.
As I previously noted, when people on the right and the left raised concerns about Haspel’s past involvement with torture sites, the Trump White House played the type of identity politics that conservatives usually criticize liberals about.
Episodes from Haspel's career raised concerns among lawmakers and others considering her nomination to the CIA, including her oversight of a secret CIA detention facility in Thailand in 2002 where one al-Qaeda suspect was waterboarded. Another detainee also was waterboarded before Haspel’s arrival. Three years later, Haspel was involved in the CIA’s destruction of nearly 100 videotapes that recorded the interrogations, touching off an investigation by a special prosecutor who ultimately decided not to bring charges against those involved.
Those issues concerned lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and put her nomination in doubt. The Senate eventually confirmed her, 54 to 45.
“It's very important to have women in all these positions, but I'm not going to accept a false choice that you either accept a woman or you accept someone who has not admitted that torture is morally wrong,” Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) said on CNN after Haspel’s nomination hearing. “I think we can have both. There are plenty of qualified women in the CIA whose names should be put forward for the nomination and for higher positions within the agency.”
That type of response to Haspel led Sanders to harshly question Democrats' commitment to women’s empowerment.
Given its extremely high turnover rate, the Trump administration will probably have plenty of opportunities over the next two to six years to bolster the number of women in senior positions, putting it in a better position in the “war on women” Sanders referenced.