Official White House photo by Pete Souza
And by that, I mean promoting and enabling parity between male and female staffers.
Washington Post recently published an article about how women staffers want to “be in the room” at the White House. “The room,” in this case, is wherever the President is. The Post’s article goes onto say that once women do get into the Oval Office or wherever the Pres is, those women struggle to get a seat at the table. If I learned anything from Sheryl Sandberg when I read Lean In, which I referenced a couple weeks ago, it’s that I as a woman need to make sure I put my butt in a chair at the table, rather than against a wall or in a corner.
While all of this seems negative and probably makes you wonder, “Wait, if women are struggling in the White House, why would we want offices to be like the Oval Office?”
What I presented thus far is the typical or historical picture. I did not present the current-day reality.
Today, there is parity between the number of male and female staffers, even amongst the President’s closest aides and top salary-earners. Additionally, recent measures have been taken to ensure that women working in the White House have access to things like space for breast pumping, which allow them to deal with the things that only women deal with while at the office.
Unfortunately, if the next presidency follows the trends of previous tenures, that parity will disappear for a few years. I hope that if that happens, the women in the room have solidarity and help raise one another up and get noticed, like the women of President Obama’s first term did. Rather than letting men repeat their female colleague’s opinions and getting credit for them (Sandberg wrote about that too), the women of the Oval Office would immediately jump in after one of their female colleague’s spoke and explicitly gave them credit, to ensure that their name was attached to their idea. In a world where women compete with one another more than they compete with other men, I love hearing about women lifting up other women.
I also hope that the next President is supportive of their female staffers in the way that President GW Bush was, telling his Chief of Staff “not to run off all [his] working mothers.”
My favorite thing about the article, though, is the photography. It shows women in meetings with Presidents. I don’t see those pictures and think “I don’t belong there.” I look at them and think, “Maybe I could be a staffer…” Since I want nothing to do with politics, that shows that those pictures are super inspiring! Huge high fives to the women making these dreams possible for young (and not-so-young) women everywhere.