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White House Reassures Women’s Advocates

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Half a dozen senior White House staff met recently with representatives of about a dozen women’s advocacy groups, including Your (Wo)Man in Washington on behalf of NAMC/MOTHERS, to discuss the process of crafting the federal budget. We had sent the President and Vice President a letter objecting to the total lack of any visible female participation in these critical negotiations. Our concern is driven by the fact that women, more than men, rely on public services now hanging in the balance, and women, more than men, are unemployed when publc sector jobs are slashed. As we made clear, the face of this recession is a woman’s face. The federal response will affect women more deeply. Addressing and solving these challenges cannot be accomplished by consulting only half the team.

Gene Sperling, Tina Tchen, Bruce Reed, Jack Lew, and other senior staff made it clear that, while those speaking to the press and publicly engaging on the issue were men, behind closed doors Stephanie Cutter (Assistant to the President), Nancy Ann De Parle (Deputy White House Chief of Staff), and Valerie Jarrett (Senior Advisor to the President) were deeply involved. Welcome news, certainly, but if they are involved, then they ought to be seen to be involved. Women bring a much needed (and often omitted) perspective to policy discussions, and the performance of team decision-making is improved by the inclusion of women, as a recent study of collective intelligence demonstrates. The contributions of women at all levels of society tend to be invisible. Care should be taken that their participation at the highest levels be readily apparent.

‘Til next time,

Your (Wo)Man in Washington

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