Virginia's Governor appoints state's first majority-female cabinet in its history

The state legislature will need to approve Ralph Northam's candidate for Commerce Secretary 

Mythili Sampathkumar
New York
Thursday 11 January 2018 22:24
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Virginia Governor Ralph Northam waves to supporters at an election night rally 7 November 2017 in Fairfax, Virginia
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam waves to supporters at an election night rally 7 November 2017 in Fairfax, Virginia

Virginia’s new governor Ralph Northam just appointed the state’s first female-majority Cabinet.

There are 15 Cabinet-level positions and if Esther Lee, Mr Northam’s nominee for Commerce Secretary, is approved by the state legislature she would be the eighth woman to serve on the Cabinet.

“I’m honoured to have this formidable group of experienced, accomplished female leaders joining me in working to build a Virginia that works for everyone, no matter who you are, no matter where you live,” the Democratic Governor said in a statement.

His predecessor Democrat Terry McAuliffe had appointed six women to Cabinet positions.

At a time when President Donald Trump has been criticised for his comments about women and several prominent Hollywood, media, tech, and political figures have been named and shamed for alleged sexual misconduct and workplace harassment, the news of Virginia’s new Cabinet is a win for gender parity advocates.

The wave of change has extended to other branches of state government.

Virginia saw a record 28 women who were elected last November seated in the new session of the state legislature, up from 17.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made headlines when he came into office for appointing enough women that his Cabinet was half female.

When asked why he famously said: “Because it’s 2015.”

Mr Trump has appointed three women to Cabinet positions - Elaine Chao for Transportation Secretary, Betsy DeVos for Education Secretary, and Kirstjen Nielsen as Secretary of Homeland Security.

According to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, only 11 US Presidents have appointed a total of 52 female Cabinet members in the country’s history.

Former President Bill Clinton had the most women in his Cabinet at nine heads of agencies.

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