President Donald Trump has appointed about three times more men than women to fill jobs in his administration that don’t require Senate confirmation.
According to a Bloomberg analysis of ProPublica data, about 73 percent of the more than 400 appointments Trump made in the first few weeks of his presidency were men. So while women make up about 47 percent of the workforce overall, just 27 percent of Trump’s appointees were women.
Vox also analyzed the gender breakdown by individual department. The numbers here are subject to a small margin of error; gender was determined by name analysis, cross-referenced with publicly available data like LinkedIn profiles.
The gender disparities, it turns out, were especially wide in departments that work in more stereotypically “masculine” fields, like Commerce and Defense. (And in a year when Hidden Figures was nominated for Best Picture, there was just one woman among eight new hires for NASA.)
Meanwhile, departments where the work is more stereotypically feminine, like Education or Housing and Urban Development, were at least closer to gender parity. Only the departments of Health and Human Services, State, and Personnel Management had more new female than male hires.
This disparity matters. Women are more than half the population, but often make up just a fraction of the decision-makers at high levels of government. And if the Trump administration doesn’t put a high priority on hiring women, it could suggest that women’s issues will be a lower priority in general.
“Key departments that really work to benefit the lives of all Americans on a day-to-day basis are just not representing women,” said Kate Black, vice president of research at EMILY’s List, which supports Democratic women running for office. “As we’ve seen, this administration continues to roll out policy after policy that doesn’t benefit or acknowledge or uplift women in any way, and in fact hurts women and families.”
This bodes poorly for working women in the Trump era
For comparison, most of Obama’s departments didn’t quite achieve gender parity either. And again, these are early hires, so the overall gender parity in Trump’s administration could easily change.
But so far at least, the gender gap is drastically larger under Trump than it was under Obama.
Obama’s departments ranged from 59 percent women in Health and Human Services to 32 percent women in Justice. In Trump’s hires so far, the range goes from 60 percent women in Personnel Management to just 10 percent women in Environmental Protection — and most of his new department hires are less than 30 percent women.
Obama’s administration also had fewer women in more stereotypically “masculine” departments, like Defense. But again, with Trump the difference is at a whole other scale.
There were a few exceptions to this gendered department trend — most notably the Department of Labor, where Trump hired just two women out of 19 new employees. Compare the portion of new women hired in the Labor department — about 11 percent — to the portion of women working in the overall labor market, about 47 percent.
And yet the workers’ protections that the Labor department enforces are especially important for women — those who face sexual harassment, for instance, or who work in jobs that have few benefits and little job security. After all, women hold about two-thirds of low-wage jobs that pay less than $10.50 an hour, like child care workers, restaurant servers, maids, and cashiers.
On top of that, Trump’s first choice to lead the Labor department allegedly abused his ex-wife (though she has since walked back these allegations), approved sexist ad campaigns as CEO of CKE Restaurants (the parent company of Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr.), and oversaw scores of allegations of labor violations and sexual harassment at his restaurants.
These particular hires may have an unusual amount of influence
The administration has been fairly tight-lipped about identifying these particular appointees, ProPublica’s Justin Elliott, Derek Kravitz, and Al Shaw reported.
The new hires are members of Trump’s “beachhead teams” — temporary (but likely to become permanent) employees who serve as Trump’s eyes and ears in every department. It’s a new transition model, based on plans proposed by Mitt Romney’s unsuccessful presidential campaign.
Sources told ProPublica that they believe these employees may wield an unusual amount of influence for their station, since it's taken so long for many of Trump’s higher-level appointees to get confirmed.
Has Trump gotten a boost in expertise or competence by hiring more men? It seems unlikely.
ProPublica notes that Trump’s new hires include “obscure campaign staffers, contributors to Breitbart and others who have embraced conspiracy theories, as well as dozens of Washington insiders who could be reasonably characterized as part of the ‘swamp’ Trump pledged to drain.”
Equal gender representation matters — for practical reasons as well as symbolic ones
If these hires are really that influential in the administration, it makes the gender disparity even more troubling. And Trump’s higher-level appointees are no model of parity either; his Cabinet so far is more white and male than that of any president since Ronald Reagan.
Yet, research shows that having more women in government actually changes how government operates. It’s easy to see why: Women’s life experiences could make certain issues, like paid family leave, appear more urgent for them than for men.
For instance, Ivanka Trump’s proposals for paid leave and child care may fall short of actually helping most working mothers — but it’s unlikely that Donald Trump would be focusing on these issues nearly as much, or at all, without Ivanka’s influence.
“When women are at the table, we get better policies and better working and living conditions for American women and families,” Black said.
People from different backgrounds and identity groups tend to bring different experiences to the table. More diverse groups tend to inspire more diverse ideas and outcomes. This may be why corporations with more women on their boards tend to be more profitable.
That’s an argument that a business mogul like Trump ought to appreciate, but it doesn’t seem to be one he’s taken to heart.