By now much hay has been made about Mitt Romney’s response about pay equity for women in this Tuesday’s debate. I’m going to make some more!
Throughout this discussion, I’ll be drawing directly from the official transcripts posted on the Commission on Presidential Debates’ website.
The question, posed first to Obama was “In what new ways do you intend to rectify the inequalities in the workplace, specifically regarding females making only 72 percent of what their male counterparts earn?” The President answered, and then Crowley followed up with: “Governor Romney, pay equity for women?”
What followed was nothing short of fascinating. It included lies, evasions, condescension and anachronisms. Let’s dig in.
Romney began his response with an anecdote having nothing to do with pay equity and which by most accounts was at best an exaggeration and at worst an outright lie.
An important topic, and one which I learned a great deal about, particularly as I was serving as governor of my state, because I had the chance to pull together a cabinet and all the applicants seemed to be men.
And I — and I went to my staff, and I said, “How come all the people for these jobs are — are all men.” They said, “Well, these are the people that have the qualifications.” And I said, “Well, gosh, can’t we — can’t we find some — some women that are also qualified?”
And — and so we — we took a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet.
I went to a number of women’s groups and said, “Can you help us find folks,” and they brought us whole binders full of women.
Yes, this was the now infamous “binders full of women” line that exploded all over the Internet. But that isn’t the most important part. He wasn’t being honest! By his account, Romney was a hero, specifically seeking out qualified female candidates for his cabinet. The truth is, the process of placing females in his administration was begun even before the election, by a group known called Massachusetts Government Appointments Project (MassGAP). MassGAP was formed to address the shortage of women in high-ranking government positions in the state, and they reached out to both candidates prior to the election. The binders full of women were real, though.
“There were actual binders involved,” Levin [chairperson of MassGAP at the time] said. “Big binders. They were big. It was before stuff was done, like it is now, electronically.”
Romney appointed his incoming (female) lieutenant governor Kerry Healey to work with the group, and he did make an effort to hire more women. In the beginning he increased the number of women in high-ranking positions. But by the end of his term, that number fell below what it was before he took office.