Governor Romney and CEO Mitt Romney had an interesting affirmative action moment during last nights debate. For many debate watchers, this moment probably went right over their heads; however, I saw another moment of contrast that simply should not be ignored.
While CEO of his own firm, Mitt Romney felt no compunction to have any particular interest in the gender make-up of his executive team or his core partner group. For many, this was exactly how it should be and many would not have expected anything different from Mr. Romney. No awards for inclusivity or diversity were given to him as CEO and frankly none were expected. Diversity in his work force was a non-issue that simply did not matter to him. I am not critiquing or specifically judging him, I’m just stating what appears to be the reality.
Something changed when he got his first “government” job and became Governor of Massachusetts.
In response to an audience question: ” …. your views on equal pay for equal work ….”, instead of a simple yes or no answer, Candidate Romney offered insight into his warm embrace of affirmative action when he was Governor. It was an interesting moment because it revealed important insight into how a person calculates how they will not answer a question by introducing a new narrative. The challenge of course is to avoid making new-news when answering a simple yet uncomfortable question, and for heavens sake, never make new-news by pandering to the audience.
Now keep in mind, the most important decision a leader makes, (either in the private or public sector), is how to build his/her executive leadership team. More than often, the team is built on the best and brightest talent available. It is also not uncommon for the team to be comprised of legacy, family, pals and buddies that are not necessarily the best, just the best pals and buddies. On a rare occasion, the team is chosen based on their unique skill set AND because they represent a certain demographic. It is the latter choice that was interesting to hear about last night.
The Supreme Court is taking up an issue this term that deals with a female student who believes she was not admitted to a Texas college because of affirmative action. Her core argument is the University specifically sought a specific demographic for admission that she was not a member of and therefore discriminated against her. The case may be seminal and it is being watched by many. Prior to last night, Governor Romney stated he did not support efforts of public institutions , (see government), to advocate for affirmative action. Last night he proudly rejected that claim in order to demonstrate his support of women in the Government workforce – by specifically rejecting a slate of male candidates for his Cabinet and Executive team.
Candidate Romney revealed that when presented with names of prospects to fill his Cabinet and Executive team in Massachusetts, he noticed there were no women on the list. This clearly disturbed him and he made it his mission to find women candidates. He said he went to Women’s groups and canvassed the state looking specifically for women to give an executive leadership level job to in his administration. He claimed he received “binders full of women” and he was able to find what he was looking for.
As a matter of pride, he commented that a New York based organization bestowed on him an award, (or at least a high-level acknowledgement), that his Government Administration had the most women in leadership positions than any of the other 49 states. A very proud moment for the Governor and one recollected with warmth and a confident smile last night. An affirmation that in the case of Massachusetts, the Governor’s affirmative-action plan was acceptable to the Governor and many others.
Here is a few question tingling in my brain:
1. Why was it important as Governor to support affirmative action in the public sector but not important to support affirmative action in the private-sector when he was CEO of Bain Capital?
2. Since it was important to have an Administration/Executive Cabinet with the best and brightest professional women on board, were they paid “equally”/”paid the same” as their male counterparts?
3. Does Candidate Romney now support demographic balancing of the entire workforce in the public-sector to ensure gender equality?
4. Did we just witness a moment of pride or a moment of pander at the most recent debate?
Please know that I am not taking a position on affirmative action at all; this is not the thrust of my post. I am not saying affirmative action is bad or good. What I am asking is why Candidate Romney decided to take the position he espoused last night and tell his personal affirmative-action story in response to a simple question from an undecided voter on “equal pay”.
When an elected official decides he does not like a pool of candidates for a job and instead publicly or privately seeks a new pool of candidates, (a binder full of females to be more accurate), specifically based on gender or race, that is affirmative action …. in action.
Mitt Romney had an affirmative action moment in last nights debate.
Let’s see if anyone other than I noticed and whether a few follow-up questions might get asked. Frankly, with the Supreme Court taking this issue up, I do want to know how Mitt Romney really feels about affirmative action when it impacts others.
Great debate last night.