Trump's Meeting On Women In The Workforce Could Use More...Women

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.
Today, Donald Trump is meeting with some of the world's biggest CEOs as part of the President's Strategic and Policy forum. The group of business leaders is discussing taxes, regulations, job creation, infrastructure, and women in the workforce.

There's just one thing (all but) missing: women. Of the 17 executives reportedly present (Uber CEO Travis Kalanick quit yesterday after public pressure), only three are female.

They include General Motors CEO Mary Barra, who met with Trump last week to discuss the state of the auto industry; PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi, who was an outspoken Hillary Clinton supporter; and IBM CEO Ginni Rometty, who wrote a letter seeking cooperation with Trump after the election.

Barra attended Trump's inauguration and, according to him, they had a "fantastic meeting" on the auto industry.

Nooyi has strongly criticized Trump's misogynistic comments. "How dare we talk about women that way? Why do we talk that way about a whole group of citizens? I don't think there's a place for that kind of language in any part of society. Not in locker rooms, not in football players' homes, not in any place," she said at a conference in New York two days after the election, referring to his "locker room talk." She also expressed worry for her minority and LGBTQ employees' safety.

However, Nooyi also congratulated Trump and called for unity in a post-election letter to employees.

Rometty has courted controversy with a letter she wrote to Trump that outlined the need for "new-collar" jobs — those that require vocational training rather than a four-year college degree. This caused at least one IBM employee to resign in protest of working with an administration that "preys on marginalized people and threatens my wellbeing as a woman, a Latina, and a concerned citizen," the employee wrote.

The lack of female representation on the forum is not the only issue. The Wall Street Journal reported that the presentation on women's issues will be done by two male executives. They are Doug McMillon, CEO of Walmart, and Mark Weinberger, CEO of Ernst & Young.

Now, neither McMillon nor Weinberger are exactly sworn enemies of women. Walmart offers 12 weeks of paid maternity leave, nine weeks of unpaid maternity leave, and two weeks of paid paternity leave. Ernst & Young debuted a new parental-leave policy last year that expanded its U.S. benefits to up to 16 fully paid weeks for new moms and dads. It also announced that it will offer up to $25,000 for fertility, surrogacy, adoption, and egg-freezing, for opposite- and same-sex couples alike.

However, when women don't have enough of a voice in a discussion about business and the economy, it's not just bad optics. It risks ignoring many of the important questions that badly need to be raised: on equal pay for equal work, on age-based discrimination, on the under-representation of women in top executive positions, on designated places to breast-feed in the workplace, on treatment of pregnant employees, and the list goes on.

And it continues the pattern of groups of men deciding women's fates, which sets the clock back for our country. Look no further than when Trump signed the "global gag order," which prevents many organizations abroad from receiving federal funding for women's health care and family planning: He was surrounded by men.
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