Biden Begins Working Toward a White House That ‘Looks Like America’

By Giselle Balido

November 18, 2020

Nine of the 13 members of Biden’s Covid-19 advisory board are people of color, and five of the members are women.

During his campaign, President-elect Joe Biden made a promise to the nation: America’s diversity would be represented in his administration.

“[And] not just my staff, but the administration, from the vice president to members of the cabinet to key players in the White House and the tribunal,” Biden said during a town hall meeting as he campaigned in June. “It will reflect who we are as a nation.”

Biden fulfilled the first part of that promise when he chose Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate. On Nov. 3, the California Senator made history when she became the first woman, first Black person, and the first Asian American to be elected to the office of vice president.

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Now, as Biden prepares to take office in January, data from his team shows that the president-elect is working to keep the second part of his promise.

“For months, the Biden-Harris transition has laid the groundwork for a Biden-Harris administration, and at the core of that work is an unrelenting commitment to diversity,” said Ted Kaufman, co-chair of the Biden-Harris transition. “As we continue working full-speed ahead to Inauguration, our diverse group of leaders and staff are reflective of America—upholding President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris’ belief that through diverse voices we can develop and implement a policy vision to tackle our nation’s toughest challenges.”

Diversity in Numbers

The new diversity numbers come as Biden is set to announce his cabinet and senior executive choices for the White House in the coming weeks.

The teams consist of around 500 people. About 40% of the team comes from “communities historically under-represented in the federal government,” said a transition official. This includes people of color, people who identify as LGBTQ, and people with disabilities.

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According to data provided to CNN, 46% of transition staff and 41% of senior managers are people of color. The majority of transition staff, or 52%, is comprised of women. Similarly, 53% of senior managers are women. The data also shows that nine of the 13 members of Biden’s Covid-19 advisory board are people of color, and five of the members are women.

Latinas in the White House

Biden has also appointed several key positions in future first lady Jill Biden’s office, as well as other positions throughout the White House. 

Lawyer Julissa Reynoso Pantaleón—who was born in the Dominican Republic, migrated to the United States at the age of seven, grew up in the Bronx, New York, and was a former ambassador during the Obama administration—will be Jill Biden’s chief of staff.

Deputy Campaign Manager Julie Rodríguez, granddaughter of the late farmworker union leader César Chávez, will be director of the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs at the White House. Biden has made delivering financial aid to state and local governments a cornerstone of his plan to combat coronavirus, and Rodríguez will be in charge of overseeing the administration’s outreach efforts to state, county, local, and tribal governments.

LGBTQ Representation

Biden, who has pledged to reverse the transgender military ban put in place by Donald Trump, appointed Shawn Skelly to the team reviewing the Department of Defense. Skelly served 20 years as a naval flight officer and retired with the rank of commander. In 2013 she joined President Barack Obama’s administration as the first trans veteran appointed by a US president. 

Chai Feldblum, a lesbian, and Pamela Karlan, a bisexual woman, have been named to the team reviewing the Department of Justice and several related agencies, including the Federal Election Commission, the Commission on Civil Rights, and the State Justice Initiative.

Feldblum helped draft the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and has been a professor at Georgetown University Law Center and a member of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

For her part  Karlan, a professor at Stanford Law School, was Roberta Kaplan’s co-counsel in Windsor v. US, the Supreme Court case that defeated the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013. 




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