There's a sign going up at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. It reads: "Boy's Club: Girls Not Allowed."
Despite much talk of hope and change, President Obama seems largely tone-deaf to women and women's issues. Post-racial country -- yes. Post gender inequality -- not so much.
Were we sold a brand that touted diversity, yet delivered a president with a woman problem?
Earlier this week, CNN interviewed me for a segment on President Obama called Where are the women? Good question. Where are they?
The CNN piece was about the latest example of access and the boys club: Obama's White House basketball game for Cabinet secretaries and members of Congress. Not a single woman was invited to the game. No matter that both Secretary Sebelius and U.N. Ambassador Rice were not only in town but both are hoops players. Hurt feelings? Secretary Sebelius hastened to point out on Leno: unlike Obama, she actually made her college team.
The game last week was hardly an outlier. The Washington Post reports: a log of Obama's athletic activities, meticulously maintained by Mark Knoller of CBS News, found no women listed among the participants in the president's various basketball, golf and fishing outings. Neither do women on the White House staff participate in the basketball games Obama's male staffers, including David Axelrod, have on weeknights.
Obama's women problem is not confined to sports. When Obama held his highly publicized beer with Skip Gates and Sargeant Crowley, the Editor at MORE asked: Would Obama Talk to Women Over Beers?. Here's the answer: no! Obama took the opportunity to speak out for Skip Gates, admittedly before knowing all the facts, as a teachable moment on the issue of race. Yet Obama, tone-deaf to women's issues, was strangely silent when Rihanna was almost strangled to death by Chris Brown. Where was the teachable moment for violence and against women and teen dating violence -- both epidemics in our country?
Women's representation in Obama's administration is also shockingly low. Of President Obama's 35-40 czar picks, only 3 are women. Read: over 90% of Obama's inner circle is composed of men!
The notion of President Obama surrounding himself with powerful women is simply a fallacy. Over 60 picks for cabinet and czars and we can count on our fingers the number of women. This is progress?
And the scant representation of women might explain why women's issue are seemingly non-existent with this administration. The healthcare bill is especially disturbing. Where is the dialogue on healthcare issues impacting women? How about gender based pricing, domestic violence being a "pre-existing condition," and, as pointed out by Martha Burk here at HuffPo, reproductive rights.
Reproductive rights. Wasn't choice the issue used to corral 56% of women to vote for Obama in 2008? Here's an interesting fact: according to a Pew Poll conducted earlier this month, almost half of Americans don't know that President Obama is pro-choice.
In fact, since January when, with much ballyhoo, President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act (which was ushered through the Senate and House by women before it reached his desk), we as women have nothing to show. Yes, Obama did create the White House Council on Women and Girls and appointed Valerie Jarrett to lead it - a notion that I applauded in an op-ed at The Daily Beast. But Jarrett quickly exited stage left to work on Chicago's 2016 Olympic run, and frankly we have heard bubkas from the council.
So what do we do?
It is time for women's advocacy groups to take the lead from what the gay rights groups have learned so well. Unite and speak out together. Challenge President Obama on his campaign promises and shockingly low representation of women. Call him out on his women problem and ask him how he plans to address it.
And it is finally time for women's organizations to end their decades long cold war with Republican women. Women's organization need to master a skill so inherent to men: negotiation. The Republican Party has promising stars ahead of 2012 including Meg Whitman, Carly Fiorina and Sarah Palin. Leaders of women's organizations should be making our case to both sides of the aisle.
After all, we have a good product to sell. Our country's future.