Before President Joe Biden was even sworn into office, he began nominating new members to his Cabinet. Biden’s Presidential Cabinet, which is made up of the vice president, 15 department heads, and eight additional executive positions, will be the most diverse Cabinet in the history of the United States if each of the nominees get confirmed by the Senate. According to The Washington Post, half of the Cabinet will be made up of women, and it will also be more racially diverse than former President Donald Trump’s previous Cabinet. In December 2020, Biden announced he and Vice President Kamala Harris plan to build a team of administrative leaders who accurately represent America, and now that Biden and Harris are officially in office, their promises can become reality.
As of January 24, 2021, two Cabinet members have already been confirmed by the Senate, including Gen. Lloyd Austin as the Secretary of Defense and Avril Haines as the National Intelligence Director. According to CNN, Austin was confirmed just two days after Inauguration Day, and he is the first Black person to hold the title of Secretary of Defense. Additionally, Haines is the first woman to be the nation’s National Intelligence Director. Chief of Staff Ron Klain and Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry did not need Senate confirmation to fulfill their roles.
According to a report from the Brookings Institute, Biden’s Cabinet includes more women than the Cabinets of the last six presidents. 33% of Biden’s Cabinet nominees are women, while only 13% of Trump’s previous Cabinet was made up of women. Vice President Harris is the first woman and first person of Black and South Asian descent to become vice president. Yet, Harris isn’t the only woman making history in Biden’s prospective Cabinet. Janet Yellen will be the first woman to become the Secretary of the Treasury, and Deb Halaad will be the first Native American Secretary of the Interior. Cecilia Rouse will be the first woman of color Chair of the Council of Economic Advisors, and Neera Tanden will be the first woman of color to be the Director of the Office of Management and Budget. Additionally, if confirmed, Katherine Tai will be the first woman of color to hold the title US Trade Representative. Other women nominated to Biden’s Cabinet include Gina Raimondo as Secretary of Commerce; Jennifer Granholm as Secretary of Energy; Marcia Fudge as the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development; Isabel Guzman as Small Business Administrator; and Linda Thomas-Greenfield as UN Ambassador.
Biden’s potential Cabinet is also significantly more racially diverse than Trump’s, but it is important to note that Biden’s Cabinet is not the most racially diverse Cabinet in history. The Brookings Institute found that 40% of Biden’s Cabinet is made up of non-white members, which is tied with former President Barack Obama’s Cabinet. Bill Clinton’s Cabinet is still the most racially and ethnically diverse with 43% non-white members. If confirmed, Xavier Beccera will be the first Latino individual to become the Secretary of Health and Human Services, and Alejandro Mayorkas will be the first immigrant and first Latino to be Secretary of Homeland Security. Michael Regan will also be the first Black man to be in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency. According to the Brooks Institute, Biden appointed the highest number of Latino individuals in comparison to the previous six presidents.
Although the nominations are significantly more inclusive, Biden’s Cabinet will contain predominantly Catholic individuals and a few Jewish individuals with only a handful of Baptists, Hindus, and Episcopalians collectively, according to The Washington Post. There is still a lack of religious diversity in the new Cabinet. Also, the average age of Biden’s nominees is 59, which is older than the average ages of the five previous Cabinets before Trump’s presidency. The youngest member of Biden’s Cabinet will be Pete Buttigieg, 39, and he will also be the first openly gay Cabinet secretary. According to PBS, many people, including Rep. Mark Takano of California, are disappointed in the lack of Asian American representation in the Cabinet.
It is also important to recognize that appointing more women and people of color to positions of power will only matter if Biden’s Administration prioritizes the wellbeing and the issues of communities of color and women. According to BBC News, women often combat social issues and policies that would have been ignored by a group of men. With a more diverse and a slightly more accurate representation of the American people in Biden’s Cabinet, we the people can only hope the actions taken by the incoming Cabinet will reflect our needs and priorities. While we can and should celebrate the representation in the prospective Cabinet, we should still recognize the changes that have yet to be made in the U.S.