politics

Why the men in Donald Trump's White House keep falling and the women reign supreme.

Watching the Presidency of Donald Trump in the U.S. is eerily like watching rookie night at your local stand-up comedy club. There’s the bad taste, certainly. But there’s also the constant stream of people exiting stage left to a chorus of boos.

President Trump’s staff are not surviving. Since Trump’s inauguration in February, Reince Priebus, Katie Walsh, Anthony Scaramucci, Sean Spicer, Michael Flynn, K.T. McFarland, Michael Dubke, Michael Short and Boris Epshteyn have all departed their positions as White House advisors.

They’ve either been fired, or resigned just in time.

All – except two – of these former White House officials are men.

It’s an observation made by Annie Karn at Politico: Men are struggling, while women are thriving, at work for Donald Trump.

How can women flourish working for ‘grab-them-by-pussy’ Trump, who ‘rates’ women according to attractiveness? Who comments on a woman’s appearance, before asking about her work. Who had a slew of sexual assault allegations levelled against him in the lead up to the 2016 election. Who blames journalists’ menstruation cycles when they’re ‘hard’ on him. Who once referred to his daughter as a “piece of ass“.

One can’t help but think: Are the women who work under Trump passive in the same way his third wife, Melania, appears to be? Her face remaining a mask, even as the words coming out of Trump’s mouth degrade her value as a woman and her legitimacy as an immigrant. Could it be the women in the White House have adopted a similar approach; stay quiet, and survive?

But to presume so would be a huge disservice to the women in question. These women have worked hard.

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Among them, there is:

Dina Habib Powell, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategy: The 44-year-old was born in Egypt and has been in politics since graduating with a bachelor degree from Texas University in 1995.

At age 29, under former U.S. president George W Bush, Powell was the youngest person to ever hold the position of Assistant to the President for Presidential Personnel. Between 2005 and 2007, she served as Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs. In 2010 she made partner at Goldman Sachs. Now, she’s back in the White House.

Listen to Mia Freedman and Amelia Lester deconstruct the week that was Donald Trump. Post continues below.

Hope Hicks, the White House Director of Strategic Communications: This wasn’t even a position until Trump made it one. He has wanted Hicks by his side since the beginning, when he summoned her to his office in Trump Tower, where she worked, and told her: “I’m thinking about running for president, and you’re going to be my press secretary”.

During the campaign, Hicks was Trump’s gatekeeper. She decided which journalists would be permitted to speak with him, reportedly handling more than 250 requests a day.

Kellyanne Conway, Counselor to the President: She successfully ran Trump’s presidential campaign, after originally backing Ted Cruz. Sure, she is not without controversy – she is pro-life and referred to the “Bowling Green massacre” which never happened when defending the administration’s immigration ban in February. But she has been dedicated to her career – serving as a strategist, pollster and campaign manager for the Republican Party – since graduating with honours from the George Washington University Law School in 1992.

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There is Director of Communications for the Office of Public Liaison, Omarosa Manigault.

Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos.

Principal White House Deputy Press Secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Deputy Press Secretary, Lindsay Walters.

Finally, there is Ivanka Trump – who wants the world to leave her alone. The working mother who was executive vice president of The Trump Organisation, before entering the White House as an advisor to the President. She has her own line of fashion products (also not without controversy) and throughout her father’s march toward Presidency, she was labelled his “better half” for her ability to engage voters.

Donald Trump. Image via Getty.

Yes, these women work quietly - Conway didn't protest when Trump called her "baby" on stage at his inauguration dinner, just as Ivanka didn't flinch when Trump said he'd "date her if she wasn't my daughter" during a television interview in 2006.

But passivity is not the reason these women are surviving in the White House. Passivity would never have got them there in the first place.

"He likes to have everyone on edge, people competing with each other," Barbara Res, a former top construction executive at the Trump Organisation who worked directly under Trump, told Politico. "He likes to divide and conquer, he likes everyone to think they work directly for him, men and women alike."

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Maybe it's a matter of practice. To succeed in an industry that is historically dominated by testosterone, these women must be accustomed to misogyny. They must ignore it.

With near certainty, they would have faced overt sexism, abuse, undermining behaviour, underestimation, constant interruption, exclusion, and still, they have survived.

"This White House is about as toxic as it gets — but women have learned how to manage, and ignore, Trump’s particular brand of egomania in a way that their male counterparts just haven’t," Alexandra De Luca, press secretary to EMILY’s List, told Politico.

It could be a matter of time management. That many female White House advisors have children, as well as high profile careers, so "they just don't have the same amount of time to stir the pot," as some officials suggested.

Most likely, it's a matter of ego. While male politicians are there to "shake things up" (Trump is "draining the swamp", former White House Director of Communications Anthony Scaramucci started his job trying to end the jobs of others) female politicians are there simply to get the job done.

"Those women are being work horses, not show horses," Alyssa Mastromonaco, a former top official in Obama’s White House told Politico. "They all seem to be genuinely focused on the presidency and not building a personal brand. I may not share Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ politics, but she’s working her ass off and deserves more credit than she gets."

One thing is certain: The women surviving in the White House deserve more credit than they are given.

While the comedy continues, these are the women working behind the scenes, gritting their teeth and silently muttering "the show must go on".

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