It's no surprise when Presidential Debates spawn catchy soundbites to be used in the next blitz of political ads, and if current trending reports have anything to say about it, "binders full of women" is the new Big Bird. Since Romney answered a question about pay equity for women at Tuesday's debate by referring to the "binders full of women" he used to hire qualified women for cabinet positions, the term has garnered astounding media and Internet attention. A Facebook page entitled "Binders Full of Women" accrued over 100,000 "likes" in less than an hour following the debate and Twitter was flooded with #bindersfullofwomen tweets. Even online retailer Amazon reports a surge in reviews for binders, drenched in sarcasm.
Putting fun aside, fact checkers were quick to point out that the binders Governor Romney referred to landed on his gubernatorial desk because of the actions of the nonpartisan Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus. The caucus had approached both Mitt Romney and his opponent, Shannon O' Brien, prior to the 2002 gubernatorial election with their Massachusetts Government Appointments Project (MassGAP). The project was a nonpartisan, collective effort of over 25 women's organizations to recruit women to apply for government positions within the incoming administration, and to recommend qualified women for those positions. Both the O'Brien and Romney campaigns committed to the MassGAP process. In short, the "binders full of women" Romney boasted about were not a result of his campaign's diligence or initiative, and they would have just as likely graced the desk of a Governor O' Brien, had she been elected.
In 2002, women comprised about 30 percent of appointed senior-level positions in the Massachusetts government. Under Governor Romney in 2004, 42 percent of the new cabinet appointments were women. However, from 2004-2006 the percentage dropped to 25 percent.
Mitt Romney infamously dodged Diane Sawyer's probes regarding his opinion about the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act during the GOP primaries, but his advisor Ed Gillespie told reporters after Tuesday's debate that the governor was opposed to the bill. Several hours later, Gillespie clarified Romney's position further, stating that he had opposed the bill in 2009, but would not act to repeal it as president.
President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act in to law in 1963, and Congress passed Title VII of the Civil Rights Act in 1964. Currently, according to Department of Labor statistics, women earn an average of 77 cents compared to their male counterparts' dollar.
A transcript, from the Commission on Presidential Debates, of the questioning that led to the catchphrase "binders full of women" follows: