On 21 September 1972, RN announced the establishment of an Advisory Committee on the Economic Role of Women within the President’s Council of Economic Advisers. He wrote:
Women are playing an increasingly important role in the economy of our Nation. We in this Administration believe that women must have full equality of opportunity and freedom of choice to pursue their careers, whether they be in the home or outside of the home.
We have taken many strong steps to promote equality and that freedom, but we must recognize clearly that much more needs to be done, especially in the subtle areas of changing attitudes.
Accordingly, I am asking the Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers to organize an Advisory Committee on the Economic Role of Women. The Committee will be composed of women and men in both the private and public sectors, who are concerned with the changing role of women in our Nation’s economy.
The Committee will meet periodically with the CEA Chairman to appraise progress and problems in this crucial area. I am confident that it will also fulfill a significant role in the vital areas of education and communication to ensure that progress and change in this important area of human rights will be constructive.
CEA member Marina van Neumann Whitman and Staff Assistant to the President for Executive Management Barbara H. Franklin took the lead at the press conference accompanying the announcement.
Barbara Franklin, who was one of the first women to graduate from the Harvard Business School, was leading the Nixon administration’s unprecedented efforts to recruit more women for high level executive branch jobs. Under her leadership, between 1971 and 1973, the number of women in such positions almost tripled.
The initiative began on 6 February 1969, when a reporter asked RN a question at his first news conference after his inauguration.
Vera Glaser of the Los Angeles Times asked him why there had been only three women among the administration’s first 200 appointments. RN was unaware of this but promised to correct the imbalance. (Vera Glaser died last January at the age of 92; her obituary in the LA Times proclaimed “Glaser’s tough questioning about the role of women in President NIxon’s administration led to changes in federal recruiting practices.”)
RN established a White House office to recruit women into executive positions in the federal government. Barbara Franklin, who had been an assistant vice president and head of the governmental relations department at Citibank, joined the White House staff and assumed that portfolio in 1971.
All cabinet secretaries and agency heads were now required to submit Action Plans to the President, describing how they intended to place, recruit, advance and train women in their departments. Only one year later, the number of women in posts paying $28,000 and up (GS-16 and above) increased from 36 to 105, many in positions women had never held before.
Four years later, in March 1973, there had been more than 1,000 women hired or promoted to middle management positions.
Women also became forest rangers, FBI agents and sky marshals. The logjam of promotions for women in the military service was also broken. The former limit of one female colonel per service branch was put aside and women were promoted for the first time to general and admiral.
Barriers against women in the foreign service were lifted.
Women headed the Federal Maritime Commission, the Tariff Commission, and the Atomic Energy Commission for the first time. Numbers of women appointed to the federal judiciary increased.
In the mid-1990s, Secretary Franklin (she had served as Secretary of Commerce in the George H. W. Bush Administration) donated her papers to her alma mater Penn State and created an oral history project called “A Few Good Women: Advancing the cause for Women in Government, 1969-74.” The project’s website provides information about the project, including biographies of the men and women interviewed.