Binders Full of Women: Open Book

The morning after, the “binders full of women” are lighting up the Internet.

During the second of three presidential debates last night, when the town hall-styled questions from voters turned to equal pay for men and women, President Barack Obama pointed to his first piece of business as president, signing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.

Republican Mitt Romney, calling it an “important topic,” spoke of reaching out to women’s groups and being handed “whole binders full of women” to consider when he was appointing members of his Cabinet as governor of Massachusetts and his advisers hadn’t found enough female candidates.

The pro-Obama American Bridge 21st Century super-PAC is out this morning with its own assessment, starting with the former governor appointing white men as judges “disproportionately.”

And the Obama campaign this morning is following up on Obama’s attempt to take the debate further, talking about contraception for women as well. “These are not just women’s issues. These are economic issues,” he said in debate, maintaining that what makes the economy grow is men and women getting the same “fair deal.”

There could be a reason Romney was talking about state hiring in debate.

As Bloomberg’s Devin Banerjee reported in September: “At nine of the 10 largest U.S. private-equity firms, women account for an average 8.1 percent of managing directors and senior executives, the highest-ranking and best-paying jobs, according to data compiled from the companies and their websites. The comparable figure for the country’s six biggest investment and commercial banks is 30 percent, while women make up 13 percent of the senior ranks at 10 of the largest traditional-asset managers.”

“The dearth of women at the top of private-equity firms hasn’t been an issue in the campaign, where Romney, the Republican nominee, has faced questions about his role in cutting jobs at companies controlled by Boston-based Bain and the preferred tax rates on buyout profits. Bain, which Romney ran for 15 years until 1999, counts seven women among its 87 managing directors and senior executives, or 8 percent.

In a campaign notable for its gender gap, with Obama enjoying more support among women than Romney — and with that gap narrowing in polls since the first debate two weeks ago — the binders full of women are sure to either unfold or unravel in the final weeks of the contest.

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