Photo Credit: MittRomney.com
In the presidential race over the last week, Mitt Romney has been attacked for his record of actively recruiting women to his cabinet during his governorship of Massachusetts. This makes no sense. Under his leadership, the Bay State was ranked first in the nation by the University of Albany’s Center for Women in Government and Civil Society in terms of the percentage of women holding top state positions. Governor Romney named me state secretary of environmental affairs in 2003, and I was one of 14 women who served in the Romney cabinet and senior management team during his term in office.
Mitt Romney filled his cabinet with professionals from many different backgrounds with many different views and ideological leanings. When I entered the cabinet, I was a registered independent who had never worked in government before. He recognized the value in retaining highly qualified cabinet members, extending a degree of flexibility to my colleagues and me – both men and women – that I never would have expected from the highest levels of government in the Commonwealth.
People have questioned whether Mitt Romney “gets” working women. I know him first hand – I worked with him closely for four years. And I can say, without a doubt, he “gets” us. When I joined his team, I had two young kids, and I’d be lying if I said it was easy to juggle my family and my career. However, Governor Romney understood that I wanted to have both, and he did everything he could to help make that possible.
For me, my children are my life’s work. They are my pride and joy. But my career also defines me as a woman. I’ve worked in different fields throughout my career – in academia, in public service and in the private sector. My bosses’ attitudes toward me, as a working mom, have really run the gamut. Like many women, I’ve worked for people who have questioned my commitment to my job, even though I throw myself into whatever I do. Others have ignored my family life altogether, as though it wasn’t a part of my life at all.
The sad truth is that, even today, the glass ceiling still exists for many women. It may not be as obvious as it was for our moms, but the fact is that women are often overlooked for many top positions in both the public and the private sector. The “Mommy Track” is often code for missing out on opportunities for promotion because of our desire and need to balance our professional goals with our home lives. Mitt Romney deserves great credit for recognizing the value women brought to his cabinet, for seeking out our voices and our resumes, and for actively supporting the need for balance in our lives.
Women work for a whole host of reasons. For most, it’s an economic imperative. There’s no doubt that we all come from different backgrounds, work in different industries, and face different circumstances. But I think we can all agree that a work environment that affords flexibility in recognition of those differences is better than one that treats us as if we’re all the same.
I’m grateful to have worked for a boss like Mitt Romney who supported me both professionally and personally. That is the way to lead, and for that, he should be praised. I just wish there were more men – and bosses – like Mitt Romney out there in the world.
Ellen Roy Herzfelder served as Massachusetts Secretary of Environmental Affairs during Governor Mitt Romney's Administration. She joins other women who worked with Mitt Romney, including former Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey, who have been speaking out about his record with women.