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25 Top Government Positions Never Held By Women

More work needs to be done to ensure the top levels of our government resembles the country it serves.

January 30, 2021 0 comments

2020 marked the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution granting women the right to vote.

While many positions have opened to women over the years, and the Biden administration is making more headway this year, there are still dozens of key jobs in Washington that have only ever been held by men.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission holds the overall record for agency gender parity, having had six female chairs out of seventeen since its birth in 1965, the first woman being Eleanor Holmes Norton in 1977.

The Department of Labor has had the most female Secretaries with seven.

The Department of Health and Human Services has had five.

The defunct Department of Health, Education, and Welfare also had two female Secretaries.

The departments of StateTransportation, and Education have each had three.

The Department of Commerce had three and President Biden has nominated a fourth, Gina Raimondo.

The departments of Justice and Homeland Security have each had two.

The Department of Interior has had two and President Biden has nominated a third, Deb Haaland.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development has had two and President Biden has nominated a third, Marcia Fudge.

The Department of Agriculture has had one.

The Department of Energy has had one and President Biden has nominated a second, Jennifer Granholm.

Some of the top departments have never been headed by a woman, while a few dozen more senior government positions, many of them appointed, are still waiting for their first female.

  1. President – Only one woman has been nominated by a major political party among the 46 U.S. presidential history, though several movies and television series have depicted female U.S. presidents.
  2. Vice-President – Kamala Harris has made history and finally broke the glass ceiling.
  3. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff – Since its creation in 1949, twenty men and zero women have filled the most senior position in the U.S. armed forces. With women only now allowed in combat, the uniformed advisers to the president will continue to be just men for some time.
  4. Any Joint Chiefs of Staff – [see Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff above] The Joint Chiefs of Staff consist of the Chairman, the Vice-Chairman, the Chief of Staff of the Army, the Chief of Naval Operations, the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, the Chief of the National Guard Bureau and the Chief of Space Operations. none have been women.
  5. Chief Justice of the Supreme Court – The Honorable John G. Roberts, Jr. is the 17th Chief Justice of the United States, and there have been 103 Associate Justices in the Court’s history. Amy Coney Barrett became only the fifth woman on the Supreme Court since 1789. That’s 232 years.
  6. Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff, aka White House Chief of Staff – Since President Harry Truman appointed the first chief of staff in 1946 – called the assistant to the president at the time – none of the 29 people to hold the president’s gatekeeper position have been women, except on The West Wing.
  7. Director of National Intelligence (DNI) – The Senate confirmed Avril Haines, making 2021 the year the first Senate-confirmed woman will serve as head of the eighteen-member United States Intelligence Community. Lora Shiao was appointed as acting director of national intelligence for one day by President Biden until the Senate confirmed Haines.
  8. Director of the National Security Agency (NSA) – Women have never held the highest-ranking position in the NSA since the intelligence agency was founded in 1952.
  9. Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) – Though women have hovered around 40% of the workforce across the six major intelligence agencies, none of the 20 directors (including those in an acting capacity) have been women since the first appointment in 1908. [Fun Fact: The FBI Director is appointed for a single 10-year term.]
  10. Deputy Director of the FBI – The office is the highest position attainable within the FBI without being appointed by the President of the United States, but no women have attained it since the position’s creation in 1930.
  11. Secretary of Defense – The Department of Defense has never been led by a woman since its inception in 1947.
  12. Deputy Secretary of Defense – No woman has been confirmed to be deputy secretary of defense either, although President Obama named Christine Fox as acting deputy secretary of defense in 2013 for almost six months. President Biden has now nominated the first woman, Kathleen Hicks, and she is waiting for Senate confirmation.
  13. Secretary of the Treasury – Alexander Hamilton was the first in this position in 1789, and President Biden selected Janet Yellen as the 78th secretary and first woman. Yellen has been confirmed by the Senate.
  14. Deputy Secretary of State – While three women have served in the top state spot since 1790, the deputy role, established in 1972, has been all men. President Biden has nominated Wendy Sherman to be the first woman Deputy Secretary of State under Antony Blinken.
  15. Secretary of Veteran’s Affairs – The Department of Veterans Affairs was formed in 1989, and all 10 of the Senate-confirmed officials who led the agency have been men, including the current acting secretary and Biden nominee.
  16. NASA Administrator – The role of top NASA official and senior space science adviser to the president was created in 1958 and has always been men. Of the five most recent deputy administrators, four have been women, including one acting deputy administrator.
  17. Secretary of the Army – This civilian position, created in 1947, has been held only by men. Nor has a woman served as the Under Secretary of the Army. By contrast, three women have served as Secretaries of the Air Force and one woman served as the Under Secretary of the Air Force.
  18. Secretary of the Navy – This civilian position, created in 1798 and removed from the President’s Cabinet in 1949, has been held only by men, though Susan Livingstone was the first woman to serve as acting secretary for eight days in 2003. Livingstone was also the first of two women to serve as Under Secretary of the Navy as well as the first of two women to serve as the Assistant Secretaries of the Army.
  19. Inspector General of the United States Army – The Inspector-General has historically been a high-ranking Army official before their appointment to the position, and no women have held this position since its creation in 1777.
  20. Comptroller General, or Director of the Government Accountability Office – Established in 1921, the fiscal accountability office has a term of fifteen years, with the most recent appointment being 2010, and has been held by eight men total.
  21. Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy – There have been eight male “drug czars” since the office was created in 1989 and four acting “drug czar” men. While President Biden hasn’t made a nomination for this position yet, he has appointed Regina LaBelle to serve as the first woman to serve as acting director.
  22. Comptroller of the Currency – The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, which oversees banks, resides within the Treasury, and dates back to 1863, when white men ruled everything. Thirty-four men have held the job since, and no women.
  23. Director of Science and Technology Policy – No woman has been Senate approved to hold this position, though two women served in temporary acting director capacities.
  24. Director of Federal Housing Finance Agency – Since the agency creation in 2008, only men have held the director position, though women have advanced to many of the key supporting roles.
  25. CEO of U.S. Agency for Global Media – Upon the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017, the agency was placed under the direction of a single CEO, and the board, officially renamed the International Broadcasting Advisory Board, was reduced to five members appointed by the President to serve in a merely advisory role. Though two women have been appointed to serve on the Board, no woman has ever been appointed as CEO until this year when President Biden appointed Kelu Chao to serve as acting CEO.
  26. Director of International Broadcasting Bureau – Since the 1994 creation of this independent agency which acts as the administrative vehicle under the United States Agency for Global Media (USAGM), only men have been appointed by the presidents.
  27. CEO of Millennium Challenge Corporation – Formed by Congress in 2004, every presidentially appointed CEO has been a man.
  28. Architect of the Capitol – Twelve men have served in this position since its creation in 1793. Christine Merdon got the closest, serving as acting Architect of the Capitol for 3 1/2 years, without Senate approval, and Deputy Architect for 1 1/2 years.
  29. Senate Majority Leader – No Senate majority leader has been female since that role was created in 1925.
  30. Senate Minority Leader – No Senate minority leader has been a woman during the 95 years either.

Extensive research indicates diverse and inclusive teams produce better outcomes, and that well-qualified women are ready to lead.

While progress has been made in the last 100 years, more work needs to be done to ensure the top levels of our government resembles the country it serves.

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