Leadership

Men outnumber women more than 2-1 among top White House aides

President Donald Trump signs an executive order alongside White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus (C), US Vice President Mike Pence (L), National Trade Council Advisor Peter Navarro (3rd R), Senior Advisor Jared Kushner (2nd R) and Senior Policy Advisor Stephen Miller in the Oval Office.
Saul Loeb | Getty Images
President Donald Trump signs an executive order alongside White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus (C), US Vice President Mike Pence (L), National Trade Council Advisor Peter Navarro (3rd R), Senior Advisor Jared Kushner (2nd R) and Senior Policy Advisor Stephen Miller in the Oval Office.

Men outnumber women by more than 2-to-1 among top aides to President Trump so far, according to the White House and an analysis by USA TODAY.

If that ratio holds as the president finishes filling out his staff, the percentage of women in the West Wing would be smaller than at least five of the last six presidential terms, the analysis shows.

The percentage of women in top White House jobs in previous administrations has ranged from 28% under George W. Bush in 2008 to 52% under Bill Clinton in 2000, the analysis of staff listings dating back to 1996 found.

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The Trump administration is just over four weeks old, but his transition and White House have announced the appointments of more than 70 top staffers. USA TODAY's analysis of White House news releases about staff hires shows that 23% are women.

The actual percentage of women among top aides is 31%, according to the White House. But officials would not release the names or titles of the hires or comment on the record about what makes up that figure.

Most of the top roles are filled by men, including Trump's chief strategist and senior advisers for policy and homeland security, as well as the heads of the Domestic Policy, National Economic and National Trade councils. The director of legislative affairs and White House counsel also are men.

The highest ranking women include: Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president; Dina Habib Powell, senior counselor for economic initiatives; and K.T. McFarland, deputy national security adviser.

The White House maintained in a statement provided to USA TODAY that overall, when other White House staff is taken into account, the ratio of men to women is "nearly the same."

The White House employs hundreds of people in offices usually organized differently by each president, including ones for scheduling and planning, public engagement and correspondence. USA TODAY analyzed only the subset of top aides closest to the president.

"President Trump has made empowering women in the workplace a priority for decades," the White House said. "He has always been at the forefront of hiring and promoting women for top positions, both at his company and most recently on his campaign and now in his administration. As president, he is working to lessen or remove some of the unique barriers that prevent women from fully participating in the workforce, while also creating new opportunities for success for all Americans."

A staff that looks like America

Specialists say that Democrats have historically appointed more women and minorities than Republicans, and so Trump may not reach the diversity levels of Clinton or Obama, whose top staff was 44% women by the end of his tenure.

Nevertheless, Meghna Sabharwal, a professor of public and nonprofit management at the University of Texas at Dallas who has researched presidential appointments, said that it's important to grow those numbers and have a representative bureaucracy.

"We are very diverse and the diversity numbers keep going up in the U.S. So do the expectations that our bureaucrats will look like us, or will mirror the demographic makeup of the society so they can reflect those values and preferences," she said. "So I think that's the core of all of this."

Trump appointed a woman, Conway, to serve as his campaign manager. His daughter Ivanka has indicated she will play a role in elevating women's issues, although she is not a White House employee. She has attended events with her father, including a high-profile roundtable at the White House last week focused on women in business. Ivanka Trump was the first to reach out to Powell about women's programming, CNN reported. Powell was a Goldman Sachs partner and leading voice on women's issues before joining Trump's White House staff.

Trump noted when announcing his hiring of Powell that she had been a "leader in both economic growth and the crucial empowerment of women in various aspects of business development and entrepreneurial endeavors."

Other women among Trump's hires are Omarosa Manigault, a former Apprentice contestant who is now director of communications for the Office of Public Liaison at the White House. Katie Walsh, deputy chief of staff, and Hope Hicks, strategic communications director.

White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway; Hope Hicks, White House Director of Strategic Communications; and Omarosa Manigault, Director of Communications for the Office of Public Liaison.
Alex Wong | Getty Images
White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway; Hope Hicks, White House Director of Strategic Communications; and Omarosa Manigault, Director of Communications for the Office of Public Liaison.

Experts say Trump should hire more women and minorities in the West Wing because it sends a signal that there are many highly qualified women and people of color who can perform those jobs and it also makes for better policy decisions, based on a diverse set of opinions.

"The quality of decisions reflects the mix of people in the room," said Paul Light, professor of public service at New York University who has studied presidential appointments. Light said the Trump White House appears to be suffering from a "very bad case of group think" and pointed to the rollout of the executive order on immigration now tied up in federal court. "If he had had a contrarian or two in the room when he looked at the travel ban, he wouldn't have done it that way," he said.

USA TODAY analyzed lists of staff members in the "White House Office" — the aides closest to the president — published every four years in the U.S. Government Policy and Supporting Positions plum book. The books are compiled at the end of each president's term, so Trump's will not be published until 2020.

Since 1996, presidents have employed an average of 100 aides in the office, not including staff members of the first lady or vice president. When names on the lists were not obviously male or female, USA TODAY used other resources, including online biographies and news reports, to determine gender.

President Bill Clinton speaks to reporters before the start of a Cabinet meeting, 28 September 2000, at the White House in Washington, DC. Seated with Clinton L-R are Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and White House Chief of Staff John Podesta.
Leslie E. Kossoff | Getty Images
President Bill Clinton speaks to reporters before the start of a Cabinet meeting, 28 September 2000, at the White House in Washington, DC. Seated with Clinton L-R are Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and White House Chief of Staff John Podesta.

Clinton employed the most women — 51 of 98 aides listed in 2000 — and they held high-ranking positions, including White House counsel Beth Nolan, deputy chief of staff Maria Echaveste and director of political affairs Minyon Moore. Obama hired the second most with 42 women among 95 aides listed at the end of his term, including national security adviser Susan Rice, homeland security adviser Lisa Monaco and director of the Domestic Policy Council, Cecilia Muñoz.

George W. Bush had his highest share of women at the end of his first term, when 39 of 109 aides were women. They included then-national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, homeland security and counter-terrorism adviser Frances Fragos Townsend, and domestic policy adviser Margaret Spellings.

University of Pennsylvania history professor Mary Frances Berry, whom Clinton twice appointed to chair the Civil Rights Commission, said presidents usually appoint people from their base of supporters, and in Trump's case there may not be an incentive to include more women in his inner circle. She said his supporters stuck with him despite his comments about some women on the campaign trail and so they are unlikely to pull that support now.

"(T)hey seem unlikely from his perspective to be that interested in how many women he appoints," she said.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY.