Shorter Mitt Romney: A Woman’s Place Is In Her Binder

Binders full of women has become the most quoted line from last night’s debate, now with its own web site and Facebook page. Maybe this is actually some sort of Mormon euphemism, because it is just outright false that Romney has ever shown any concern for hiring more women. Here’s the story behind this latest Romney  lie and where the binder really came from:

What actually happened was that in 2002 — prior to the election, not even knowing yet whether it would be a Republican or Democratic administration — a bipartisan group of women in Massachusetts formed MassGAP to address the problem of few women in senior leadership positions in state government. There were more than 40 organizations involved with the Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus (also bipartisan) as the lead sponsor.

They did the research and put together the binder full of women qualified for all the different cabinet positions, agency heads, and authorities and commissions. They presented this binder to Governor Romney when he was elected.

I have written about this before, in various contexts; tonight I’ve checked with several people directly involved in the MassGAP effort who confirm that this history as I’ve just presented it is correct — and that Romney’s claim tonight, that he asked for such a study, is false.

I will write more about this later, but for tonight let me just make a few quick additional points. First of all, according to MassGAP and MWPC, Romney did appoint 14 women out of his first 33 senior-level appointments, which is a reasonably impressive 42 percent. However, as I have reported before, those were almost all to head departments and agencies that he didn’t care about — and in some cases, that he quite specifically wanted to not really do anything. None of the senior positions Romney cared about — budget, business development, etc. — went to women.

Secondly, a UMass-Boston study found that the percentage of senior-level appointed positions held by women actually declined throughout the Romney administration, from 30.0% prior to his taking office, to 29.7% in July 2004, to 27.6% near the end of his term in November 2006. (It then began rapidly rising when Deval Patrick took office.)

Third, note that in Romney’s story as he tells it, this man who had led and consulted for businesses for 25 years didn’t know any qualified women, or know where to find any qualified women. So what does that say?

Well, one reason Romney did not know where to find qualified women is that Bain and the private equity field were male-dominated.His record in Massachusetts was not very good, with  “a  University of Massachusetts study showing that by November of 2006, the level of women as a percentage of senior level positions had dropped to lower than it was when Romney took office.”

Barack Obama made reference to the line while campaigning:

Obama made a passing reference Wednesday to the remark still buzzing with memes and snarky comments in the Twitterverse after last night’s match-up.

“We don’t have to collect a bunch of binders to find qualified, talented, driven young women ready to learn and teach in these fields right now,” Obama said to supporters in Mount Vernon, Iowa.

He continued: “When young women graduate, they should get equal pay for equal work. That should be a simple question to answer.”

We can’t get a straight answer from Mitt Romney on this, and many other, issues. He has been opposed to the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act from the start, even if unwilling to answer the question last night.

More Romney distortions from the debate can be found here, his obfuscations on birth control and abortion here,  and still more on why Romney’s policies are bad for womenhere.

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