It’s well known that Hillary Clinton wants gender parity in her Cabinet if she wins the White House. So it’s worth remembering the positions where glass ceilings still exist.
Here’s the rundown. Of all the Cabinet and Cabinet-level roles, only four have never been held by a woman: secretary of the Treasury, secretary of defense, secretary of veterans affairs and White House chief of staff.
Could Clinton — or Donald Trump — make a clean sweep and fill all of those positions with women? It’s certainly possible.
A handful of women are rumored to be under consideration as potential Treasury picks for Clinton, including Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg (much to progressives’ chagrin) and Federal Reserve Board member Lael Brainard. For secretary of defense, ex-Pentagon official Michèle Flournoy is a perpetual favorite in conversations around town.
Female leadership could be longer in coming to the Veterans Affairs Department, and not only because the job is considered unattractive because of scandal.
Former VA officials speculated that Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), an Iraq War veteran, would be an easy pick for Clinton if she loses her challenge to Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.). But that seems improbable, given the likelihood Duckworth will flip the seat to blue on Nov. 8.
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) could be another candidate, official said, noting her appointment could represent an olive branch to the progressive wing of the party she represents. (Gabbard was a vocal supporter of Bernie Sanders in the presidential primary.) Then again, with Gabbard’s political star on the rise, it’s unclear she would want to leave elected office to lead a difficult bureaucracy.
That leaves the final position never held by a woman: White House chief of staff. Some of Clinton’s allies think she will prioritize hiring a woman as her top aide for this reason. (Center for American Progress President Neera Tanden is sometimes mentioned in this context, along with longtime Clinton aide Huma Abedin.) But most of the people known to be interested in the role (ex-Ebola czar Ron Klain) and others seen as potential candidates (Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook) are men.
John Podesta’s role in a potential Clinton administration also remains unclear, though insiders assume he’ll assist Clinton in the early days as an interim chief of staff.
Should Clinton win the White House and fill those four roles with women during her presidency, she would be second only to her husband in breaking the glass ceiling on Cabinet-level positions. President Bill Clinton appointed five “firsts”: the first female secretary of state (Madeleine Albright), attorney general (Janet Reno), energy secretary (Hazel O’Leary), Office of Management and Budget director (Alice Rivlin); and Council of Economic Advisers chair (Laura Tyson).
One final piece of trivia: The first female Cabinet member was Frances Perkins, who President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed to lead the Labor Department in 1933. It would be another 20 years before the next woman held that rank. (Oveta Culp Hobby became the first secretary of health, education and welfare in 1953.)