Unpacking The Binders

Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of Ordinary Times. Relapsed Lawyer, admitted to practice law (under his real name) in California and Oregon. On Twitter, to his frequent regret, at @burtlikko. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.

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31 Responses

  1. Tom Van Dyke says:

    Romney decided the best man for the job of lieutenant governor was a gal named Kerry Healey. Good enough for me.

    Midway through his four-year term, 42 percent of his 33 new appointments were women, according to a study done by the UMass Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy using some of the data collected by MassGAP.

    But over the next two years, women made up only 25 percent of the 64 new appointments Romney made. By the end of his term, the number of women in high-ranking positions was slightly lower than it was before Romney took office.

    And that’s close enough for rock’n’roll. [The abridged version making the rounds simply has his admin as lower in female %age, not only at the end of his term. On the whole, his record shows anything but “sexism.” Clean bill.]


    unless there’s something like this in his history. ;-P


    • Did I call him a sexist? I don’t think I did, and if you read that into the post, I’ll walk that back here and now as unambiguously as you please.

      I said the issue of affirmative action isn’t important to him. By extension, that implies that the issue of diversity isn’t important to him, either, other than for political cover. But that’s different than sexism, the accusation of which would imply that he thinks men are better than women in some material fashion. There’s no evidence of that and that’s not what I either wanted to analyze or imply. I’ve presumed in the post that he found talented, qualified women for these jobs. Whatever it takes to be a good lieutenant governor of Massachusetts, Kerry Healey had it and he recognized that in her. So that’s a good thing and it speaks well of Romney to have recognized it.

      I do suggest that there is a leadership problem insofar as he didn’t know any such women on his own to recruit personally — not because he didn’t know of women qualified for these posts but apparently because he didn’t know any men qualified for them, either, and had to solicit resumes from the public for important positions in his gubernatorial cabinet. One would think that Gov. Romney didn’t need to go to monster.com to find Ms. Healey, but the story he told about himself involves looking at resumes and job applications for appointed positions for which, as he did with Ms. Healey, he should have had some idea of who would be a good choice all on his own.

      The issue of why he didn’t know any women and was only getting resumes from men is the subject of Tod’s post, but not the subject here.

      I suppose we could open up the “affirmative action is racism sexism” box if we were to read into this story the idea that Romney intentionally appointed a less-qualified woman to a job instead of a better-qualified man. But we’ve got nothing on the table here suggesting that anything like that ever happened. I don’t think outreach to achieve diversity, whether you call it affirmative action or not, is a bad thing, and I personally think that the choice between diversity and talent is in most situations a false one. You can and should have both and the same time, and a good executive finds a way to acheive both goals.Report

      • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Burt Likko says:

        If short of alleging full-fledged “sexism,” it’s a ding on Romney he really doesn’t have coming. His record is credible if not creditable. And if he had a dearth of female applicants for posts in Massachusetts, he certainly won’t have that problem this time.

        Pssst–Romney’s first nominee to the Supreme Court:


        Bank it. 😉Report

      • LWA (Lib W Attitude) in reply to Burt Likko says:

        I don’t think its sexism per se, if only because there isn’t a word that means “disdain for anyone who isn’t a rich white guy amazingly like Mitt Romney”.Report

        • Stillwater in reply to LWA (Lib W Attitude) says:

          I had a convo with a guy at work today where we both agreed that saying “binders full of women” is … wrong. It may be that it’s only politically wrong. Or that it’s morally wrong. Or that it’s contextually wrong. But wrong nonetheless.

          Any intelligent, forward thinking politician wouldn’t have uttered the phrase. They’d have said “I had binder’s full of resume’s from women who were qualified for the job but had been systematically overlooked previously”. Or, well, something like that.

          There’s a lot to criticize Romney for on this score. If someone wants to argue the comment was sexist, I wouldn’t be inclined to defend him. But that might be because unlike TVD, I don’t think Romney’s record is creditable. The guy is a grifter, and his cohort is – for lack of a better term – is the 1%.Report

          • Kolohe in reply to Stillwater says:

            When Romney speaks in overly precise manner, he’s a automaton that can’t connect with people. When he uses verbal shortcuts, he’s just wrong.Report

          • MikeSchilling in reply to Stillwater says:

            It reminded me of this old and (inexplicably) famous joke:

            YOUNG LADY: My family have sent me to see you because I’m so fond of pancakes.

            PSYCHIATRIST: Well, I can’t see anything wrong with that. I myself am very fond of pancakes.

            YOUNG LADY: Oh, then you must come to visit me. I have trunks and trunks FULL of them!Report

          • Burt Likko in reply to Stillwater says:

            While I admit I’m playing off the popularity of the phrase in the post’s title, my real issue here isn’t the phrase “binders full of women.” I’m assuming here that we can fairly imply in the phrase “women’s resumes” and trying instead to look deeply at why Gov. Romney was proud of making this outreach.Report

  2. DensityDuck says:

    Applying the same standard as President Obama’s recent speeches, I’ll say that this was already reported on back in 2003 and therefore it’s a useless distraction to bring it up now.Report

  3. bookdragon says:

    The disturbing thing it says about him to me is that he doesn’t view affirmative action as just ‘casting a wider net’, but as a quota. He doesn’t say that he found all these great candidates he wouldn’t have seen otherwise; he says ‘look how many wimminz I appointed! That makes me a good guy, amirite?’

    I can’t tell you how many times I was trotted out to meeting or trade shows that had nothing to do with my specialty just so my dept could go ‘Look, we’ve got a female engineer with a PhD!’. It’s insulting.Report

    • DensityDuck in reply to bookdragon says:

      “The disturbing thing it says about him to me is that he doesn’t view affirmative action as just ‘casting a wider net’, but as a quota.”

      And every time we see an article about how only 1-in-x of executives are women, how only some-percentage of engineers are women, how the number of women business owners is lower than the number of men business owners…we see the reinforcement of that view.Report

      • bookdragon in reply to DensityDuck says:

        Maybe, but I don’t read simple statistics as a call for quotas. I see them and think ‘Why is that the case? Is there a structural reason that ought to be addressed so more of x are encouraged to try and possibly succeed in that field?’

        Affirmative Action was originally put in place to force businesses to ‘cast a wider net’. I see nothing wrong with that. It’s frequently the case that corporate culture becomes hopelessly inbred – beyond just distinctions of race or gender, it’s all too often ‘who you know, not what you know’. To the extent that EEO laws counter that, I think they’ve done some good. New blood, diversity if you will, tends to be a plus.

        The difficulty is when the goal is articulated as just meeting a quota and so the person hired, who is outside the ‘norm’ for the field, is treated as unworthy – someone there only because they fill a quota. Yes, some people take advantage of that (just like some people take advantage of being related to someone on the Board of Directors). However, the attitude which is reinforced by stories like Romney’s undermines everyone in certain fields who isn’t a white male.

        True story: There were over 170 students in my graduate program. Only 7 of us were women. We were all in the top 20% of the class. Every single one of us routinely had to deal with male students who said, frequently to our faces, that we’d only gotten in because we were women.

        On the one hand, you could say that this is the negative consequence of imposing affirmative action. On the other hand, I’m old enough to know perfectly well that if affirmative action hadn’t been imposed during my mother’s generation, there little chance that even such a paltry number of women would have been admitted to a grad program in engineering (I offer as evidence the fact that in my undergrad days the head of the Young Republicans on campus kept writing columns in the school paper saying that women shouldn’t be admitted to colleges except Nursing and Education because in the others they were taking spots from men who would need those degrees to support families).Report

        • Kim in reply to bookdragon says:

          *snort* A friend of mine tells the story about a man yanking the curtain aside while she was on the toilet, to ask if the Nursing student(her) was the person who had gotten an A in her otherwise all-male class. He was quite upset.Report

    • Brandon Berg in reply to bookdragon says:

      But that’s what the diversity argument for affirmative action is all about: Diversity, affirmative action’s boosters claim, is a good in and of itself, not because it’s the natural result of casting a wider net, but because people with diverse life experiences bring diverse perspectives to the table.

      Personally, I’m skeptical of the value of this, but this isn’t Romney Not Getting It.Report

      • Kim in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        Diversity is what makes our Government Scientists great.
        Seriously, it’s where a lot of diverse folks hang out,
        and they like to hang out there because it’s not hostile to them.

        No quotas needed, they take all comers (always got job openings
        for scientists!)

        But diversity is what brings people to the table,
        and gets them to settle for lower pay.Report

      • bookdragon in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        Then it’s Romney not articulating it, because he said nothing about valuing diversity. He came across, at least to me, as some trying to get points for going through the motions. ‘Look, I got an out come that made me look good.’ not ‘I realized that I couldn’t govern well with a team that didn’t include a single voice from a group that makes up over half my constituents.’Report

  4. HalSF says:

    Burt (not his real name), thanks for this and thanks also for the link to Tod Kelly’s succinct dispatch on what Mitt Romney should have said about working women.

    On a stylistic note, the one thing I didn’t like above is the filibustering. You really, really, really didn’t need 2,612 words (plus a 400-word bonus comment) to say what you had to say.Report

  5. Jeffery Bahr says:

    Sheesh. I knew you were an attorney before I got to the end of the article. Seriously, why do you guys all write as if you’re being paid by the word.

    Other than that I agree with you.Report