Obama Vs. Bush: Scorecard on Cabinet Diversity

DiversityInc, November 4th, 2009

By Sam Ali

President Obama can't seem to catch a break. Poor guy can't even shoot a game of hoops at the White House without being castigated by one group for not including another.

His administration is too white, some say. Too male, others argue. He doesn't have enough women in top Cabinet-level jobs. He doesn't have enough Blacks or Latinos in the White House press office. Well, we decided to see just how Obama's Cabinet stacks up against his predecessor's initial lineup in terms of racial, ethnic and gender diversity.

Bush's administration, which included the appointments of retired Army General Colin Powell and Dr. Condoleezza Rice as secretary of state, both Black, was one of the most diverse in history.

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What our analysis revealed: Bush will have to relinquish his title. The nation's first Black president is now the reigning champ of the most diverse Cabinet in history. In fact, Obama's Cabinet appointments beat Bush's initial Cabinet appointments hands down in terms of racial/ethnic/gender diversity on nearly all counts, with women and Asians faring the best.

Of the 23 key Cabinet-level positions in Obama's administration, 10, or 43 percent, are filled by white men. Four of the top jobs, or 17 percent, are filled by white women—former Sen. Hillary Clinton, former Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, economist Christina Romer and former Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano.

Three positions, or 13 percent, are filled by Asian Americans (former Washington Gov. Gary Locke, Gen. Eric K. Shinseki and Nobel Prize winner Steven Chu). Two out of the 23 appointments, or 8 percent, are filled by Latinos (former Sen. Ken Salazar and former Rep. Hilda L. Solis). And four jobs, or 18 percent, are filled by Blacks (Eric H. Holder Jr., Susan E. Rice, Lisa P. Jackson and former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk).

Looked at through this lens, Obama's administration does indeed seem top-heavy when it comes to white men. But pure numbers don't tell the whole story here.

In fact, less than half, or 43 percent, of Obama's Cabinet appointments are white and male, compared with Bush, who had 52 percent.

Similarly, 30 percent of Obama's Cabinet appointments are women and 39 percent are Black, Latino and Asian, while women comprised only 21 percent of Bush's initial Cabinet appointments, and Blacks, Latinos and Asians were 30 percent.

Asians are heavily represented in the Obama administration. Three departments, including Commerce, Energy and Veterans Affairs, are all filled by Asian-American men. When you factor in Obama's nine-member White House staff, his representation numbers get even better.

After Obama's now infamous all-male basketball game, NOW President Terry O'Neill chastised Obama in a television interview, saying it was "extremely important, now especially, for the president to have as many women as men in his closest circle of advisers."

To be fair, four of Obama's closest and most trusted White House senior advisers are women, including Valerie Jarrett and Mona Sutphen, who are both Black, Nancy-Ann Deparle, who is of Chinese ancestry, and Carol Browner, who is white.

FULL STORY Obama Vs. Bush: Scorecard on Cabinet Diversity

Below is a list of Obama's 23 key Cabinet appointments compared with Bush's initial Cabinet appointments, when he was first elected in 2001.

  1. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER

Bush: Condoleezza Rice (2001–2005) was the first woman—and the first Black woman—appointed national security adviser.

Obama: Obama's pick, Marine General James L. Jones (2009–present) is a white man.

As part of the Reagan administration in 1987, Colin Powell was the first Black person named to this post.

  1. WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL

Bush: Alberto Gonzales, the first Latino to hold the job (2001–2005), Harriet Miers, (2005–2007) and Fred Fielding (2007–2009).

Obama: Washington lawyer Greg Craig is white.

Former President Bill Clinton gets honors for appointing the first woman, Beth Nolan, a law professor, to the job.

  1. SECERTARY OF STATE

Bush: Colin Powell (2001–2005) was the first Black person in this office and Condoleezza Rice (2005–2009) was the first Black woman.

Obama: Hillary Clinton (2009–present) is white.

Former President Clinton appointed the first woman, Madeleine Albright, to the position in 1996.

  1. DEPARTMENT OF TREASURY

Bush: Paul O'Neill (2001–2003), John Snow (2003–2006) and Henry Paulson (2006–2009), all white men.

Obama: Tim Geithner (2009–present) is another white man.

Historically, only white men have held this office.

  1. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE

Bush: Donald Rumsfeld (2001–2006) and Robert Gates (2006–2009).

Obama: Robert Gates (2009–present)

Only white men have been appointed to this Cabinet position.

  1. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE/ATTORNEY GENERAL

Bush: John Ashcroft (2001–2005), Michael Mukasey (2005–2007),

Alberto Gonzales (2007–2009, first Latino to hold the position).

Obama: Washington lawyer Eric Holder is the nation's first Black attorney general.

Former President Clinton appointed the first woman, Janet Reno, in 1993 to serve as attorney general.

  1. DEPARTMENT OF INTERIOR

Bush: Gale Norton (2001–2006) was the first woman to hold this position.

Obama: Ken Salazar (2009–present) is the second Latino to hold this post.

Former President George H. W. Bush appointed the first Latino to the post, Manuel Lujan Jr., in 1989.

  1. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Bush: Ann Veneman was the first woman to hold the position.

Obama: Thomas J. Vilsack is a white man.

Once again, former President Clinton gets kudos for appointing the first Black person, Mike Espy, to the post.

  1. DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

Bush: Donald Evans (2001–2005), Bush's close friend, was a white man, and Carlos Gutierrez (2005–2009) was the first Latino to hold the post.

Obama: Former Washington Gov. Gary Locke, Obama's third pick for the job, is the first Chinese American to hold the post.

Obama's first choice was New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a Latino, who bowed out under pressure. Obama's second pick, Republican Sen. Judd Gregg, withdrew his name because of ideological differences with the administration.

Former President Jimmy Carter appointed the first woman, Juanita Kreps, back in 1977.

  1. DEPARTMENT OF LABOR

Bush: Elaine Chao (2001–2009), the only Cabinet member in Bush's administration to stick around for both terms, was the first Asian American in the position.

Obama: Hilda Solis (2009–present) is the first Latina in the position.

  1. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES

Bush: Both Tommy G. Thompson (2001–2005) and Mike Leavitt (2005–2009) were white men.

Obama: Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius is a white woman.

Carter appointed the first woman, Patricia Harris, to the post. She was also the first Black woman to hold the post, not to mention the first Black woman to hold ANY Cabinet position.

The senior Bush appointed the first Black man, Dr. Louis Sullivan, and former President Clinton appointed the first Arab American to this office, Donna Shalala.

  1. DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT

Bush: Melquiades Rafael Martinez (2001), a Cuban American, Alphonso Jackson (2003–2008), a Black man, and Steven Preston (2008–2009), a white man.

Obama: Shaun Donovan (2009–present) is a white man.

  1. DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

Bush: Norman Mineta (2001–2006) was the first Asian American to hold this position. Mary Peters (2006–2009) is a white woman.

Obama: Obama's pick, Ray LaHood, is a white man.

William Coleman, a Ford appointee, was the first Black man in 1975. In 1983, Elizabeth Dole, a Reagan appointee, became the first woman. And former President Clinton tapped Federico Pena, the first Latino in this office.

  1. DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY

Bush: Former Michigan Sen. Spencer Abraham (2001–2005) is an Arab American.

Obama: Obama's pick, Nobel Prize winner Steven Chu, is Chinese American.

Former President Bill Clinton appointed the first woman, Hazel O'Leary, in 1993, and the first Latino, Federico Pena, in 1997. George Bush appointed the first Arab American, Spencer Abraham, in 2001.

  1. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION

Bush: Rod Paige (2001–2005) was the first Black person to hold this job, and his successor, Margaret Spellings (2005–2009), is a woman.

Obama: Obama's choice, Arne Duncan, is a white man.

Shirley Hufstedler, the first secretary of education, is a woman. She was in Carter's Cabinet. Laura Cavasos, a Reagan and senior Bush appointee, was the first Latina.

  1. DEPARTMENT OF VETERAN AFFAIRS

Bush: Anthony Principi (2001–2005), Jim Nicholson (2005–2007) and James Peake (2007–2009) are all white men.

Obama: Eric Shinseki is the first Asian American in this office.

Jesse Brown, a Clinton appointee, was the first Black person to hold the position. No woman has ever been appointed.

  1. DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY

Bush: Since its inception in November 2002, both secretaries have been white men: Tom Ridge (2003–2005) and Michael Chertoff (2005–2009).

Obama: His pick, former Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, is the first woman.

  1. COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISERS

Bush: R. Glenn Hubbard (2001–2003) and Harvey Rosen (2003–2005), both white men.

Obama: Christina Romer is a white woman.

  1. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

Bush: Former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman (2001–2003) is a white woman; Michael Leavitt (2003–2005) and Stephen Johnson (2005–2009) are both white men.

Obama: Lisa Jackson is the first Black person to head the agency.

  1. OFFICE OF BUDGET MANAGEMENT

Bush: Mitch Daniels (2001–2003), Joshua Bolten (2003–2006), Rob Portman (2006–2007) and Jim Nussle (2007–2009) were all white men.

Obama: Peter Orszag is also white.

  1. U.S. TRADE REPRESENTATIVE

Bush: Robert Zoellick (2001–2005) and Robert Portman (2005–2006) are both white men, and Susan C. Schwab (2006–2009) was the second woman to hold this position.

Obama: Dallas' first Black mayor, Ron Kirk, is the first Black person in this job.

The senior Bush picked the first woman in 1989: Carla Hills.

  1. U.S AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS

Bush: Quite a few. The revolving door of U.S. ambassadors during the Bush years included John Negroponte (2001–2004), a white man; Jack Danforth (2004–2005), a white man; Anne Patterson (acting, 2005), a white woman; John Bolton (2005–2006), a white man; Alejandro Wolff (acting, 2006–2007), a white man, and finally, Zalmay Khalilzad (2007–2009), the first Afghan American and Muslim to hold this—or any other position—in a U.S. administration.

Obama: Susan Rice is the first Black woman to hold the position.

In 1977, Carter appointed Andrew Young to serve as the first Black person in the position.

Jeane Kirkpatrick, appointed by Reagan in 1981, was the first woman.

  1. WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF

Bush: Andrew Card (2001–2006) and Joshua Bolten (2006–2009).

Obama: Rahm Emanuel.

Only white men have held this position.

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