By Anne E. Kornblut, Globe Staff, 3/28/2001
WASHINGTON - President Bush has quietly closed the White
Office for Women's Initiatives and Outreach, shutting a small but
symbolic office in one of many indications that his administration intends to
reshape the government's approach to women's issues.
The closing of an office established in 1995 was not
announced, and a White House official declined to explain, except to say
that it ''expired at the end of President Clinton's term.''
The office, which ranged in size from four to nine people,
served as a liaison to outside organizations with ideas and questions about
pending policies affecting women.
Audrey Haynes, who directed the office before becoming
Gore's chief of staff, said its work then focused on economic issues
important to women. She cited the example of a call received from a
professor who pointed out negative effects of a bankruptcy bill on
Such advocates ''don't know who to call'' in the White House without
office, she said.
''The policy shop depended on us to really monitor all of
policy initiatives that were being formulated within the White House or
Cabinet,'' Haynes said. Bush's decision to close the office, she said,
Asked why Bush did not renew the office, spokeswoman
Buchan responded in more general terms. ''As far as President Bush is
concerned, women's issues are very high on his priority list, issues
affect women and all Americans, especially tax relief for working
child care, health care, cancer research funding for NIH,'' she said.
Bush prides himself on caring about issues affecting women
launched a ''W is for Women'' sidebar to his campaign as a testament.
has put dozens of women - more than any other president - in positions
power on the White House staff. They include Karen Hughes, counselor to
president, the highest-ranking female staff aide in the history of the
But he is also a firm fiscal conservative, and he is wary
affirmative action, practices that allow schools and contractors to
consider race, gender, and ethnicity when making decisions.
Instead, Bush favors a vague concept of ''affirmative
access,'' which aspires to a workplace where minorities and women are
the best candidates.
Despite his statements supporting women's issues in
Bush's views on some specifics - including Title IX, which he says he
supports but has also criticized - have been nebulous.
Some of his personnel moves have indicated a move away
Clinton administration views that won support from women's groups
established since the emergence of feminism.
Bush has placed Diana Furchtgott-Roth, a conservative
economist who says there is no gender gap in pay, in a top position at
Council of Economic Advisers. Kay Coles James, a Christian activist who
opposes affirmative action, has been picked to direct the Office of
Personnel Management, which oversees labor and discrimination rules
the federal work force.
James, a former official at Pat Robertson's Regent
once attacked the choice of Joycelyn Elders for surgeon general
she wrote, ''the best person ought to get the job, regardless of race
gender.'' On another occasion, she accused ''militant radical
of trying to ''divide us along gender lines'' by expanding the
of rape to include all forms of unwanted sexual conduct.
''Women must be responsible for their own behavior, and
legal system must be careful to define rape within reasonable limits,''
James wrote in a letter to a Heritage Foundation publication in 1994.
Furchtgott-Roth, an alumna of the Reagan and past Bush
administrations, has written a book on wage comparisons between men and
women that argues that ''complaints about systematic economic
discrimination against women simply do not square with the evidence.''
Rather than earning 75 cents for every dollar a man earns, as the
administration argued, women make more like 98 cents, Furchtgott-Roth
Other appointees - several hired from conservative think
- reject the traditional feminist platform, especially what has been
the ''politics of female victimization.''
Their views are no academic matter: Various programs
women, from labor contracting rules to Title IX funding for female
are likely to be seen through a much different lens than they were by
last administration, and with a more conservative bent.
Their arrival along with other conservative intellectuals
the White House is welcome news to many Republicans, both men and
Nancy Pfotenhauer, president of the Independent Women's
said she expected this year to see much less emphasis on ''Equal Pay
the event staged by liberals on April 3 to underscore a gender gap in
wages. ''You wouldn't see the Bush administration pushing something
that,'' she said.
Cathy Young, author of the book ''Ceasefire: Why Men and
Must Join Forces To Achieve True Equality,'' agreed. ''There's not
be the talk there was about gender issues as there was under Clinton,''
But that is troubling news to many feminist organizations,
which are closely watching the appointments and awaiting the outcome of
first Bush budget.
Martha Burk, chair of the National Council of Women's
Organizations, voiced concern about a range of areas affecting women,
the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's pursuit of sexual
complaints, to the Labor Department's investigation into federal
contractors' wage scales.
Burk also cited the selection of Wade Horn as the
secretary for family support at the Department of Health and Human
Services. As president of the National Fatherhood Institute, he has
known to ''push marriage as a way to keep women and children out of
poverty,'' she said.
''Up and down the line,'' Burk added, ''the acknowledgment
that so-called movement conservatives are now becoming high level
appointees is alarming from the perspective of gender equity and
This story ran on page A01 of the Boston Globe on
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© Copyright 2001 Globe Newspaper Company
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