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Biden To Assign More Women To National Security Positions


Biden could also make history by naming a woman to be defense secretary. He's already tapped a longtime aide, Tony Blinken, to become secretary of state and a veteran diplomat, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, to represent him at the U.N. NPR's Michele Kelemen reports on an effort to get more women in national security posts.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: In the 2012 presidential campaign, Republican Mitt Romney was mocked for a comment he made about seeking gender parity in his governor's office in Utah.


MITT ROMNEY: I went to a number of women's groups and said, can you help us find folks? And they brought us whole binders full of women.

KELEMEN: Looking back, Lindsay Rodman thinks he was on to something. Rodman is a Marine Corps Reserve officer who's now executive director of the Leadership Council for Women in National Security. The group may not have binders, but it does have a database.

LINDSAY RODMAN: The point of our effort, where we put forward over 850 very well-qualified women for the most senior 200 Senate-confirmed political appointments in the national security space, was about making the case that these women are ready now. They are available. Here's their information.

KELEMEN: During the campaign, Biden signed a pledge to seek gender parity in his national security team. So far, Rodman is encouraged. Today the president-elect announced that Avril Haines, if confirmed, will be the first female director of national intelligence. And veteran diplomat Linda Thomas-Greenfield was tapped to become U.S. ambassador to the U.N., which will be a Cabinet post. Biden also has several women on his short list for defense secretary. That would be a first, though Tamara Cofman Wittes says this isn't about symbolism.

TAMARA COFMAN WITTES: We're not looking for that one symbolic win, although those are always nice. But we just think that there's really no reason that there shouldn't be parity across the whole sector.

KELEMEN: She co-founded the organization that's lobbying for gender parity.

COFMAN WITTES: In an era when public trust in government has been eroded, the more we can open government service to the full diversity of the American citizenry, the more we can bring government closer to people and we can bring the concerns of all of the American people into government.

KELEMEN: Her colleague, Lindsay Rodman, says they've been holding seminars to help women interested in government jobs.

RODMAN: All the way from, how do I get my name considered, and, who is making these hiring decisions, and, what is a transition team, to a panel solely devoted to the Senate confirmation process and what it's like to prep for it and testify in front of Congress.

KELEMEN: She's trying to break through what she calls an old boys network for government jobs in national security.

Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington.

(SOUNDBITE OF THOM YORKE'S "ATOMS FOR PEACE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michele Kelemen has been with NPR for two decades, starting as NPR's Moscow bureau chief and now covering the State Department and Washington's diplomatic corps. Her reports can be heard on all NPR News programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.

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