A few days ago, I wrote about five women who could change the face of the Republican Party. If you've seen photos of either the Obama cabinet or the senior staff at the White House recently, you've probably noticed there aren't many women there either. I'll leave the White House staff for another day, but let's take a look at some women who could change the face of the Obama cabinet. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is stepping down, and there are persistent rumors that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Attorney General Eric Holder will as well. Neither Treasury nor Defense has ever been led by a woman, and Justice hasn't had a woman in charge since Janet Reno. Here are my nominees:
Claire McCaskill for attorney general. The Democratic senator from Missouri started out as a trial prosecutor in Missouri handling sex crimes, and later ran the largest prosecutor's office in the state, so she knows the nuts and bolts of the court system. She currently sits on the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, which gives her experience with the counterterrorism aspects of the attorney general's job as well. Senate confirmation would probably not be a problem, given she's a sitting senator. McCaskill is a former single mom who now has seven children and five grandchildren. (There's a bonus: Naming her would open up a Senate seat in red-state Missouri. Think Dems won't do it? Opening up a Senate seat didn't stop the administration from naming Sen. John Kerry to State.)
Indra Nooyi for treasury secretary. The current CEO of Pepsi is No. 12 on the Forbes's list of the most world's powerful women: She's increased both profits and revenue at Pepsi, returning $5.6 billion to shareholders last year alone. But languishing stock and diminished market share have started rumors that this Democrat may want a graceful exit. Nooyi's name was floated earlier this year as a possible head of the World Bank, and President Obama has recently consulted with her and other CEOs on debt reduction. Born in India and a graduate of the Yale School of Management, she's the mother of two grown children. Picking her for Treasury—rather than yet another governor of the Federal Reserve or big banker—would send a good signal that Obama is ready to change his antibusiness ways.
Kay Bailey Hutchison for defense secretary. The just-retired Republican senator from Texas could be an alternative to erstwhile nominee Chuck Hagel, whose trial-balloon candidacy seems to be in trouble. Like Hagel, she'd be a bipartisan pick who would get along well with her former colleague Sen. John Kerry at State. And, like Hagel, she's got plenty of experience with military matters: Hutchison served for years on the Senate Defense Appropriations subcommittee, and she introduced and passed 2004 legislation creating the Overseas Basing Commission, which conducted a thorough review of the military's global footprint, including all of its military facilities, bases, and family housing worldwide. She and her husband adopted two young children 11 years ago. Fun fact: She's the current chairman of the board at West Point. Right now, she's more likely than Hagel to get confirmed by the Senate.
President Obama would be smart to put more women at the cabinet table. Let me know your nominees.