On Sunday, President-elect Joe Biden announced a history-making all-female communications team. It’s the first time that a Presidential communications team will be made up entirely of women. This team follows a pattern much like the rest of President-elect Biden’s cabinet. These women are diverse, qualified, and experienced. They are also setting a new precedent of what White House officials can, and should, look like. The significance of this new development cannot be downplayed.
Who’s on the Team
Elizabeth E. Alexander – Communications Director for the First Lady
Alexander was a senior advisor on the Biden-Harris campaign. She was also formerly press secretary to President-elect Biden during his time as Vice President. Alexander has served as press secretary or communications director for several prominent institutions and politicians, including Congressman Adam Schiff and the United Nations Foundation. Before switching to communications, she worked as a federal prosecutor.
Kate Bedingfield – White House Communications Director
Bedingfield worked as the communications director for the Biden campaign. She will subsequently fill the same role in the administration. Bedingfield also worked in various communications roles during the Obama administration. Prior to the Obama White House, she worked as press secretary for several senatorial and presidential campaigns, including Senator Jeanne Shaheen and John Edwards.
Ashley Etienne – Communications Director for the Vice President
Etienne served as communications director for Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, the first woman and the first person of color to fill that role. Before that, she worked in the Obama administration and served as communications director to Pelosi and several important organizations.
Karine Jean-Pierre – Principal Deputy Press Secretary
Jean-Pierre worked as Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ chief of staff on the campaign trail. She worked in a communications capacity under the Obama administration, and as a political analyst on NBC and MSNBC. Prior to that, she served in various roles on numerous political campaigns.
Jen Psaki – White House Press Secretary
Psaki worked in the Obama administration as the White House communications director. She also served in several other senior roles in the administration, including State Department Spokesperson under then-Secretary of State John Kerry, Deputy White House Communications Director and Deputy White House Press Secretary during the financial crisis. She has also served on three different presidential campaigns.
Symone Sanders – Senior Advisor and Chief Spokesperson for the Vice President
Sanders worked as an advisor for the Biden-Harris campaign. Before that, she was the youngest Presidential press secretary while working on Bernie Sanders’ campaign in 2016. Sanders was also CNN political commentator and worked significantly on juvenile justice reform.
Pili Tobar – Deputy White House Communications Director
Tobar served on the Biden-Harris campaign. Before her work on the campaign, she was the deputy director for America’s Voice, advocating for immigrants. Tobar also served as media or communications director for several congresspeople and the DNC.
How this Fits With Biden’s Cabinet Plan
This all-female communications team is a qualified and diverse group of women. These appointments follow the pattern that Biden set early on in his campaign. He made numerous promises to uphold ideals of diversity and equality on the campaign trail, and he has consistently upheld these promises thus far, through his appointments. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will be the first female, first Black, and first South Asian Vice President in the country’s history. For the first time, if Janet Yellen is confirmed, the Treasury Secretary will be a woman. The all-female communications team is a step in continuing in that progressive direction.
Not only does Biden’s communication team consist of all women, but the group also includes women of color and LGBTQ+ women. The future of diversity is not just putting white women in positions of power. It’s about elevating BIPOC women to those same positions that white women are just now starting to have access to for the first time, that traditionally have been the sole domain of the white man.
The number of LGBTQ+ folks elevated to positions of power in our government has been remarkably small. President Trump appointed the first openly gay Cabinet member when he made Richard Grenell the Director of National Intelligence. When it comes to White House communications positions, LGBTQ+ appointees have been few. Judd Deere is currently serving as Deputy White House press secretary, and he is gay. In the Obama administration, Eric Schultz served in the same role. He was the first openly gay person to conduct an on-camera interview in the White House briefing room.
However, Pili Tobar and Karine Jean-Pierre will now be the first lesbian women of color appointed to such positions. This is a huge intersectional leap forward for the American political universe.
In addition to their diversity, several of these women are also working mothers. This is a significant step forward for all of us. Biden’s all-female communications team is actively demonstrating that women can have it all. A career and family are not mutually exclusive entities. It’s a struggle that has plagued women since we began infiltrating the workforce.
The Current White House Responds
Kayleigh McEnany, the current White House press secretary, responded to the news with a tweet claiming that the current administration also has an all-female communications team. She included a link to the original article breaking the news from the Washington Post.
This is untrue. The White House deputy communications director is a man, Brian Morganstern. As is the deputy press secretary, as noted above. Regardless of the White House claims, Biden’s communications team remains the first in history to consist of all women.
So Why is This Such a Big Deal?
Glass ceilings are shattering. The leaders of this country are putting women in positions they’ve never been in before, in record numbers. This is significant for not only these women and their incredible accomplishments, but all women, from all walks of life.
Having this much female representation in the White House means that the President and his advisors will have a direct female perspective. Our issues, like birth control, child care, and equal pay, will be discussed in a room where women who represent us are actually present. Our rights will no longer be debated and decided solely by white men born long before our parents, or sometimes even our grandparents walked this earth.
It’s a big deal, not only for women today, and our rights as they exist now. This administration’s inclusive choices will have implications far into the future. Young women like my little sisters will not remember a world before there were women in the White House. They will grow up knowing, with certainty, that there is no place in America to high for them to climb.
The presence of these women in positions of power will make it very difficult for whatever administration that comes next to roll back on the progress we have already made, at least symbolically. There is now a generation of women who knows that they belong in these roles, just as much as any of their male counterparts. Women now belong in the White House, without question.
A Poignant Summation
To summarize the situation, Maya Harris, the Vice President-elect’s sister, tweeted “It’s gonna be women saying “excuse me, I’m speaking” all the time and I’m so here for it!”
The tweet is a reference to Vice President-elect Harris’s now-iconic debate moment in which she repeatedly silenced Vice President Pence’s interruptions with a simple, pointed “I’m speaking”. The moment quickly became a meme and a talking point in support of Harris, and Black women everywhere.
There will be women speaking in this administration.