Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen’s resignation from President Donald Trump’s Cabinet on Sunday raised new questions about the administration’s lack of diversity among its top advisers.
The demographics of Trump’s Cabinet have long been a source of contention because many believe his inner circle has not reflected the population of the United States. Nearly 51 percent of the country is female, while 13.4 percent is black, and 18.1 percent is Hispanic, according to the latest Census Bureau numbers.
Yet, when Nielsen leaves, only three women will remain in the administration’s Cabinet: Director of the Central Intelligence Agency Gina Haspel, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. The Cabinet consists of about two dozen positions.
Chao was born in Taiwan to Chinese parents, and is among two other people of color in the Cabinet: Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson and Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta.
A 2017 analysis by The New York Times found that President Trump’s Cabinet was already shaping up to have a smaller percentages of women and non-whites than the first Cabinets of former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George Bush.
When asked by the PBS NewsHour in March whether he was concerned about diversity lacking if he were to leave, Carson said he was not.
“I am not concerned about what happens if I leave,” he said. “But I do believe that there needs to be a representative sampling of our society.”
Yamiche Alcindor talks to HUD Secretary Ben Carson about his reaction to President Trump’s rhetoric on race, whether Carson plans to remain in his position, and HUD achievements during his tenure.
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway has defended Trump, saying that he has empowered women in the White House such as herself.
“He’s a great boss, particularly to the women of the White House,” she said during an interview in October at The Atlantic Festival in Washington, D.C. “Why else would I be there?”
President Trump on Twitter announced that Kevin McAleenan, the current U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner, will become acting Secretary for the Department of Homeland Security.
Meanwhile, Nielsen’s departure also added to the slate of Trump Cabinet officials operating with “acting” as part of their titles, including acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, as well as acting Ambassador to the United Nations Jonathan Cohen.
As Nielsen makes her exit, another woman is on a list for Trump’s Cabinet consideration. Trump has said he plans to nominate Jovita Carranza, the U.S. treasurer and a woman who comes from a family of Mexican immigrants, to lead the Small Business Administration, after the former head Linda E. McMahon left the position last week. Carranza will need to be confirmed by the Senate before becoming a member of Trump’s Cabinet.