While his reputation for other events often precedes him, President Richard M. Nixon was the country’s first chief executive to make adding women to high-ranking positions in his administration a priority. One of those women was the Honorable Barbara Hackman Franklin, now chairman of NACD, who served as a staff assistant to Nixon and led the nascent effort to recruit women to the White House.
Franklin is the subject of a recently published book, “A Matter of Simple Justice,” by Lee Stout, librarian emeritus at Penn State University Libraries, which details how Franklin and others helped bring more than 100 women into high-level administration positions and established a talent bank of more than 1,000 women.
Franklin and Stout were joined by the Honorable Helen Delich Bentley, former chairman of the Federal Maritime Commission and the first woman to serve in a key position in the maritime field, and the Honorable Carol Hallett, counselor to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, for a panel discussion hosted by the Center for Women in Business on June 7.
Stout said the idea to pen the book came from an oral women’s history project, “A Few Good Women Oral History Project,” which began at Penn State in 1995. Franklin initiated the project that includes nearly 50 interviews with key appointees from the Nixon administration.
When Franklin assumed her position in the administration, she was short on both staff and office space, but she began her search for qualified women to serve in government posts and was able to bring almost four times as many women into executive positions than in any previous administration.
Though women have made great strides in political and business positions, there is often still resistance to women holding top leadership positions today. Franklin explained that melding different experiences and points of view can sharpen any discussion, particularly in the boardroom. She added that NACD is developing a Report of the NACD Blue Ribbon Commission on The Power of the Diverse Board “to bring to the foreground the power of diverse processes around the table.”