Obama admits he allowed female staffers to be sidelined by males

Bro-ack Obama: Former president admits he had ‘blind spot’ and allowed female staffers to be sidelined by male colleagues because of his own ‘tolerance for a towel slapping atmosphere’ and ‘enjoyment in good verbal jousting’

  • Obama allowed female staffers to be sidelined by their male colleagues because of his own ‘tolerance for a towel slapping atmosphere’ in the White House
  • He writes in his new memoir that he learned of a ‘deepening dissatisfaction’ among senior women in his administration that was a ‘blind spot’ for him 
  • The women were sick of men talking over them or claiming their ideas 
  • They felt ‘diminished, ignored and increasingly reluctant to voice their opinions’ – and some broke down in tears
  • He writes the ‘enjoyment I took in good verbal jousting’ created a culture where men were allowed to shut women down and dominate them during meetings
  • Obama doesn’t name the women who were affected, but they could have included Anita Dunn, who served as White House communications director
  • Christina Romer, former chairwoman of the Council of Economic Advisers, was another high ranking official
  • Obama held a meeting to clear the air and realized he was part of the problem because of his own ‘machismo’ 

Barack Obama allowed female staffers to be sidelined by their male colleagues because of his own ‘tolerance for a towel slapping atmosphere’ in the White House.

In his memoir the former president writes that he learned of a ‘deepening dissatisfaction’ among senior women in his administration that was a ‘blind spot’ for him.

The women were sick of men talking over them or passing off their ideas as their own during high level meetings, Obama writes in ‘A Promised Land’.

As a result they felt ‘diminished, ignored and increasingly reluctant to voice their opinions’ – and some broke down in tears.

Obama held a meeting to clear the air and realized he was part of the problem because of his own ‘machismo’.

He doesn’t name the women who were affected, but they could have included Anita Dunn, who served as White House communications director until November 2009.

Christina Romer, former chairwoman of the Council of Economic Advisers, was another high ranking official.

Barack Obama allowed female staffers to be sidelined by their male colleagues because of his own ‘tolerance for a towel slapping atmosphere’ in the White House. Obama held a meeting to clear the air and realized he was part of the problem because of his own ‘machismo’

He doesn’t name the women who were affected, but they could have included Anita Dunn (pictured), who served as White House communications director until November 2009

In the memoir Obama writes that the issue was brought to his attention by his close adviser Valerie Jarrett (pictured) late in the first year of his Presidency

In ‘A Promised Land’ he writes that the ‘enjoyment I took in good verbal jousting’ had created a culture where men were allowed to shut women down and dominate them during meetings.

Obama’s public image is that of an intellectual law professor but the anecdote speaks to another side of him: the hyper competitive, basketball-playing bro.

Barack Obama’s memoir, ‘A Promise Land,’ (pictured) was released on November 17

In the memoir Obama writes that the issue was brought to his attention by his close adviser Valerie Jarrett late in the first year of his Presidency.

She urged him to pay ‘closer attention to the experiences of women and people of color on the staff’.

Obama writes: ‘At least one woman on the team had been driven to tears after being upbraided in a meeting.

‘Tired of having their views repeatedly dismissed, several other senior women had effectively stopped talking in meetings altogether’.

Obama asked a dozen senior members of his White House to have dinner with him to ‘air things out’.

He writes: ‘It became clear to which patterns of behavior that were second nature for many of the senior men on the team – shouting or cursing during a policy debate, dominating a conversation by constantly interrupting other people (especially women) in mid-sentence, restating a point that somebody else (often a female staffer) had made half an hour earlier as if it were your own – had left them feeling diminished, ignored and increasingly reluctant to voice their opinions.

‘Their stories forced me to look in the mirror and ask myself how much my own inclination toward machismo – my tolerance for a certain towel slapping atmosphere in meetings, the enjoyment I took in good verbal jousting – may have contributed to their discomfort’.

Obama talked to his chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and other senior male advisers in his team and they were ‘surprised and chastened and vowed to do better’.

Obama’s public image is that of an intellectual law professor but the anecdote speaks to another side of him: the hyper competitive, basketball-playing bro

In ‘A Promised Land’ he writes that the ‘enjoyment I took in good verbal jousting’ had created a culture where men were allowed to shut women down and dominate them during meetings

The women took to heart Obama’s suggestion they be more assertive in meetings and he told them to push back if somebody tried to talk over them, and the atmosphere improved.

In another portion of his memoir, Obama admits he couldn’t blame Hillary Clinton for resenting him during their battle against each other for the Democratic nomination in the 2008 Presidential race. 

He pointed out she had ‘sacrificed, endured public attacks and humiliations all in service of her husband’s career’ – only to be bested by a relative political newcomer.

Obama reveals he thought that Clinton would lose to him because she ‘just couldn’t escape the rancour, grudges and hardened assumptions arising out of the Clinton White House years’.  

Obama wrote: ‘A woman of enormous intelligence, she had toiled, sacrificed, endured public attacks and humiliations all in service of her husband’s career – while also raising a wonderful daughter…. 

‘As a candidate she was performing almost flawlessly….and now to find herself suddenly in a close contest with a man 14 years younger, who hadn’t had to pay the same dues, who didn’t carry the same battle scars and who seemed to be getting every break and every benefit of the doubt? Honestly who wouldn’t be aggravated?’  

Barack Obama said he couldn’t blame Hillary Clinton for resenting him during their battle against each other for the Democratic nomination in the 2008 presidential race, pointing out she had ‘sacrificed, endured public attacks and humiliations all in service of her husband’s career’ – only to be bested by a relative political newcomer.

The reflection came about after Obama had a striking encounter with Clinton during the 2008 race where she got ‘agitated’ with him and her voice ‘sharpened’ as she accused him of underhand tactics.

What started with an attempt by Obama to cool relations between them ended up with Clinton storming off looking ‘visibly angry’.

He writes that going up against Clinton in 2008 was a hard choice but he felt that he could beat her.

Obama writes: ‘That I decided to run despite Hillary’s presence in the race had less to do with any assessment of her personal shortcomings and more to do with my feelings that she just couldn’t escape the rancour, grudges and hardened assumptions arising out of the Clinton White House years.

‘Fair or not, I didn’t see how she could close America’s political divide, or change how Washington did business, or provide the country with the fresh start it needed’. 

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