You’ve seen the photos. Finding a woman in the White House is the Where’s Waldo of 2017. And it seems that each week, the administration floats a new policy that would curb the rights of women in some respect.
But don’t worry everyone, Ivanka Trump is on it. In her (unpaid) role as a special assistant to her dad, President Donald Trump, she will be “advocating for the economic empowerment of women,” she told Gayle King in an interview with “CBS This Morning” that aired on Wednesday.
She’ll be doing this very quietly, apparently. Trump said she is candid about her opinions with her father, but made it clear that she has little control over what he does. And when she does have some kind of effect, we may never learn about it.
“I think most of the impact I have, over time most people will not actually know about,” she told King.
The interview makes clear that Ivanka Trump is actually continuing in a well-trodden tradition, particularly for white women. For decades, they were stranded at home with little economic power and often resorted to a quiet behind-the-scenes passive aggression to get things accomplished. It’s a plot straight out of a 1950s sitcom.
More generally speaking, many women have learned ― consciously or otherwise ― not to seem too pushy, aggressive or loud because femininity is stereotypically considered a passive trait.
For female CEOs, the technical term for this is called “the double-bind.” They need to be bossy, but without being seen to be bossy, lest they’re labeled a bitch.
The tradition of the woman quietly working behind the scenes, doing the grunt work carries over to the corporate world, too. For years now, women have taken on what is often invisible and administrative work, for which they don’t seek (or get) credit, while men aggressively advocate for themselves out in the world.
At companies, men are typically overrepresented in so-called “line roles,” the mission-critical jobs responsible for profits and losses. Women get slotted into administrative positions ― it’s why at a lot of companies you’ll see a woman running the human resource or legal department but not in the CEO chair or heading up sales.
That’s been changing for a lot of forward-thinking companies and it had been changing in the White House, too. Previous administrations have had a greater percentage of women in important roles ― former Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama each had a female secretary of state, for example.
Alas, there are only four women in the Trump cabinet and not in the top posts that matter. Overall, only 23 percent of the White House staff is female.
And it’s not like the men over there are pounding the pavement for women. So far, the Trump administration has restricted abortion rights around the world, cut funding from an international program that prevents maternal deaths and unsafe abortions, fought to defund Planned Parenthood and weakened protections for women who’ve been sexually harassed or discriminated against at work.
In the CBS interview, King asked Ivanka Trump what she thought about the criticism that she is “complicit” with the president’s agenda. King didn’t get into specifics, but one would want to know ― is she cool with all the actions the administration’s taken around women’s rights?
She dodged the question. (Or possibly she doesn’t know what “complicit” means.) “If being complicit is wanting to be a force for good and to make a positive impact, then I’m complicit,” Trump said. “I hope time will prove that I have― done a good job and much more importantly, that my father’s administration is the success that I know it will be.”
We know from her father’s statements, that she has pushed him to consider a paid maternity leave policy ― the U.S. is the only developed country without one. And she’s also been advocating behind-the-scenes for a child-care tax credit.
Nothing has come of either idea.