President Obama's White House hasn't been able to shake its "boys club" image in his second term. Last January, a photo of Obama's inner circle — made up of 10 men — was widely circulated, and this past summer, Obama dragged his feet about nominating Janet Yellen to be the first female Fed chair. On Tuesday, Politico's Women Rule published an interview with National Security Adviser Susan Rice, counsel Kathy Ruemmler, and Homeland Security Adviser Lisa Monaco. The trio insist the boys club image is false — women just prefer to stay out of the spotlight.
Rice, Ruemmler, and Monaco are the highest-ranking White House officials on national security issues, a field that's typically male-dominated. So why aren't they in photos with Obama all the time? Ruemmler tells Politico's Carrie Budoff Brown, "There are certain gender dynamics in the world that are also true here." Brown explains:
Ruemmler said she had to be persuaded to do the interview, underscoring her point that women, more so than men, tend to shun the spotlight. Somebody who didn’t work in the White House, Ruemmler said, asked her recently why she wasn’t better known, given that she’s served longer than her predecessors under Obama.
"That, I think, is the general philosophy for most of the women here and that is just consistent with the way, to be candid, most of us were raised," Ruemmler said. "It is about doing the work, getting the work done, and the work will speak for itself."
Emphasis added. It seems the White House's new PR position is that the women who work there are just shy. If they could be persuaded to do more interviews and pose for more photos, the public would see that the White House really is friendly to the ladies. Rice and Monaco echoed Ruemmler's statements.
Brown brought up the fact that Obama is often photographed with male advisers playing golf or shooting hoops. Does that bother Obama's national security "power trio"? No. "None thought a Saturday morning on the golf course or basketball court would advance them in the White House," Brown reports.
Obama has worked to appoint more women to top positions in recent months — Rice was a high-level appointment, as was Samantha Power, who is now the ambassador to the United Nations. But his numbers aren't as good as President Clinton's were at this point in his presidency. Women only hold about 35 percent of cabinet-level posts. Perhaps working to correct this imbalance will do more for the White House's reputation than persuading the women who do work there to pose for photos.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.