This post has been updated to reflect that policy-wise, Office for Education director Holly Miller says she answers to Mayor McGinn—and answered to former Mayor Greg Nickels. —Eds.
While I was on (mini) vacation last week, Erica's straightforward report comparing the number of female city department heads in former mayor Greg Nickels' administration to the number of female department heads in Mayor Mike McGinn's administration caused a ruckus. Nickels did much better when it came to female representation.
I don't think McGinn is a male chauvinist pig. What concerned me about the story was Team McGinn's reaction. In addition to being weirdly out-sized and melodramatic (see Facebook)—McGinn's formal response was too Orwellian for me.
As the NBA's Rasheed Wallace famously said, "Ball don't lie," Erica's numbers are indisputable: 54 percent of Nickels' city department heads were women vs. 30 percent of McGinn's.
However, even though Erica did an apples to apples comparison between Nickels' city department heads then and McGinn's now—as opposed to office directors who operate under department heads—McGinn said he had more female directors than Erica reported because he had made some changes and announced that two office directors were now cabinet members and so should be counted with the department directors.
McGinn says he made changes, promoting women to director positions. But Miller told me her position under McGinn is "exactly the same" as it was under Nickels.
There's a great scene in Woody Allen's classic Bananas—a spoof of left-wing revolutions—where the new dictator of the fictional San Marcos announces: "Furthermore, all children under 16 years old are now 16 years old!" (This was after announcing that the official language of San Marcos would suddenly be Swedish and that everyone had to wear their underwear on the outside and change it every half hour.)
The two women McGinn wanted us to count among the department directors are Holly Miller, director of the city's Office for Education, and Barb Graff, director of the Office of Emergency Management. However, organizationally, Miller's office operates under the Department of Neighborhoods, and Graff's office is under the umbrella of the SPD. Moreover, McGinn didn't appoint either woman; they were both appointed by former mayor Greg Nickels.
I'm kinda creeped out at how fast and loose McGinn is willing to play with the facts to resist criticism.
I talked to Miller and Graff today. Miller told me her position under McGinn is "exactly the same" as it was under Nickels. She was part of Nickels cabinet. She's part of McGinn's cabinet. Administratively, her office operated under of the Department of Neighborhoods during the Nickels administration, and it's the same set up under McGinn. She says policy-wise, she answers to McGinn, but she also answered to Nickels on policy. Erica did not count Miller in her Nickels calculations nor her McGinn calculations.
It's not the implication of institutional sexism that struck me about all this, it's McGinn's impulse to alter the facts. Meanwhile, Office of Emergency Management Director Graff told me that—just as she did during the Nickels administration—she answers to her department director, currently SPD Chief Jim Pugel.
Graff did tell me that there has been a change under McGinn. She says while she attended cabinet meetings under Nickels (when emergency preparedness issues were on the agenda), she was not a formal member of his cabinet. She says she is now formally a part of McGinn's cabinet, and attends every cabinet meeting.
Even if you went the banana republic route and submitted to McGinn's adjusted reality by including Graff and Miller among the department heads, Nickels' numbers would still dwarf McGinn's. Nickels' numbers would increase to 58 percent female directors, while McGinn would lag behind Nickels at 36 percent.
It's not the implication of institutional sexism that struck me about all this, though. I don't think McGinn is a sexist; he has powerful women on both his reelection squad and in top spots in his office, including his chief of staff, Julie McCoy. (Though get this: McGinn also wanted us to count McCoy, along with his communications director Beth Hester—his political operatives—when calculating our stats about city department directors. I guess that provides some insight into McGinn's city priorities.)
No, what bothered me about Gendergate was McGinn's impulse to demand that others believe his own press releases as zealously as he does.