On October 31, the National Council of Women’s Organizations and the National Women’s Political Caucus hosted a press conference to announce the Women’s Appointment Project, an effort to “identify, recruit, train, and support women seeking elected and appointed office.” The Project sought responses from the two major party candidates in the presidential election. Vice President Al Gore responded with a letter saying his Cabinet will “look like America.” Texas Governor George W. Bush did not respond.
The Project reported that only 22 women have held cabinet or cabinet-level positions in the entire history of the U.S., and the heads of the Treasury, Defense, Justice, Interior, Agriculture, Energy, and Veterans Affairs Offices have never been women. While the number of women appointed has gone up over the past two decades, Senate approval of women appointees continues to lag, and the numbers of women appointed remain small. Under the Bush administration, only 3 women were nominated. Clinton appointed 11 women to prominent positions.
The Women’s Appointment Project “will establish a talent-bank of women qualified for senior-level government positions.” The issue of women’s appointments is highlighted by the Senate’s stalling on approval of Bonnie Campbell’s nomination for a seat on the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals. While Campbell’s nomination has been held up by the Senate Judiciary Committee for 246 days, the Senate recently voted to confirm four male nominees. Currently, only 20 percent of the Federal Judiciary are women. All four of the recently approved nominations were made after Campbell’s name was submitted and included one nomination that was made on July 21, 2000. Cambell heads the Violence Against Women Office and was Iowa State Attorney General.