Thursday, September 22, 2011

The White House is Unfriendly to Female Staffers?

Looks like the "Old Boy's Network" has struck again. This time its hit an unexpected place, the White House. According to a new book written by Ron Suskind, "Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington and the Education of a President," female staffers felt excluded, under valued for their policy ideas and lacked the equal access to the President, that their male counterparts freely enjoyed. The frustrations of these women hit a boiling point, forcing the President himself to step in and attempt to rectify the situation.

From The Washington Post:

At a dinner in November 2009, several senior female aides complained directly to the president that men enjoyed greater access to him and often muscled them out of key policy discussions.

Those tensions prompted Obama, urged on by senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, to elevate more women into senior White House positions, recognize them more during staff meetings and increase the female presence in the upper ranks of the reelection campaign. “There were some issues early on with women feeling as though they hadn’t figured out what their role was going to be on the senior team at the White House,” Jarrett said in an interview Monday. “Most of the women hadn’t worked on the campaign, and so they didn’t have a personal relationship with the president.”

In the earlier days of his term The President was appaulled for appointing a high number of women to White House staff positions and within his cabinet. 16 African-American women were among this group

If this book were just a case a few women venting their frustrations with their boss and their work condiditons, we wouldn't have a problem. However, this book is riddled with controversey and its mostly coming directly from the White House and named sources.

Former White House Communications Director - Anita Dunn:

“this place would be in court for a hostile workplace. . . . Because it actually fit all of the classic legal requirements for a genuinely hostile workplace to women.”

Dunn says she was quoted out of context and told The Post on Friday that she told Suskind “point blank” that the White House was not a hostile work environment.

On Monday, Suskind allowed a Post reporter to review a recorded excerpt of the original interview, which took place over the telephone in April. In that conversation, Dunn is heard telling Suskind about a conversation she had with Jarrett.

“I remember once I told Valerie that, I said if it weren’t for the president,
this place would be in court for a hostile workplace,” Dunn is heard telling
Suskind. “Because it actually fit all of the classic legal requirements for a
genuinely hostile workplace to women.”

Former Chairwoman of the Council of Economic Advisers - Christina Romer:

"After being excluded by Summers at a meeting, I felt like a piece of meat.”

Romer issued a similar denial to Dunn.

“I was told before I went to Washington that there has always been a lot of
testosterone in the West Wing. What was different in the Obama administration is
that there were so many women in important positions and, when problems arose,
the president worked hard to fix them. I felt respected, included and useful to
the team.”

I'm glad these women have spoken out along with the others. The President doesn't get a pass here. Granted he made an attempt to rectify the sutuation, it shouldn't even have gotten to the boiling point that it did. When the decisions are made its obvious that the women are not in the room, so there is not excuse.

Women must understand their power and learn how to make their voices heard. Whether its the White House, the board room or a monthly meeting of a non-profit that she volunteers with, women must know how to communicate their ideas and thoughts to their male superiors and male counterparts.

President Obama should have anticipated this and had Valerie Jarrett on top of this from the jump. Their should be staff meetings, mentoring sessions and monthly 121's with the President in place. Hopefully the White House and the President have learned their lesson. I hope this also serves as a lesson to future administrations and male leaders across the country. Women must be valued and treated equally. Bottomline!!

Are you surprised that the President dropped the ball on this?

Should Anita Dunn and Christina Romer shared their experiences?

Will we ever get to a place where women are treated equally to men in the workplace?

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