Campaign Staffer Gender (Im)balance

Kevin Drum, following up on Zephyr Teachout (still the most famous grad of my high school) and Kelly Nuxoll is fretting about the relative scarcity of women in the staffs and foreign policy kitchen cabinets of presidential candidates. I’m not as worried as he is – and that’s not just because the candidate I’ve been shamelessly plugging for the past year or so will probably pick Susan Rice or Samantha Power as his National Security Adviser.
For one thing, Drum (and Teachout, and Nuxoll) only look at the upper echelons of the candidates’ advisers; campaign managers, policy directors, and finance chiefs will likely have been working as political consultants for years, and will have started at a time when the glass ceiling was far more confining than it is today. Many women at that time may have chosen to not go into the field because of its male dominance, leaving a dearth of high-level female operatives today. I think this self-selection effect for younger campaign workers has mostly ended. On the ground level, in the Obama campaign at least, the gender ratio is pretty even, and if it skews in any direction it’s towards women. I’d posit that twenty or thirty years from now the gender ratio for campaign managers and such will be very different.
And I’m also somewhat puzzled by Kevin’s declaration that “[i]t’s time to try a little harder” in increasing the number of female foreign policy advisers. I can’t speak for any of the candidates, but I doubt that any of them, especially on the Democratic side, are consciously choosing male advisers over female ones. I think they’re selecting advisers based on their closeness to their own foreign policy views, and if they’d like them to serve in their administration. As well they should; gender should be a secondary concern to expertise and political alignment. Affirmative action at the NSC level seems so arbitrary as to be dangerous, and I don’t think there’s any real justification for it.

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