Obama faces new criticism from women's groups over his team

President Obama is facing new criticism from women’s rights groups for failing to nominate a woman to his core group of economic advisers.

Obama on Friday named longtime adviser Austan Goolsbee to head the Council of Economic Advisers after Christina Romer left to return to the University of California at Berkeley.

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Women’s rights groups -- including the National Organization for Women (NOW) and The New Agenda -- have sharply criticized the White House for not including more women in prominent positions overseeing the economy and financial policy. The groups are pressuring the president to nominate Elizabeth Warren as the inaugural head of a new consumer financial protection office.

“It's very disappointing. You can't say unexpected but very disappointing that the president is content to build a boy's club in the White House in many areas,” Amy Siskind, head of The New Agenda, said Friday after the president named Goolsbee to the job.

“The problem with the president insulating himself with the old boys around him is that he is really not getting information about how people are struggling, how women are struggling,” Terry O'Neill, head of NOW, said earlier last week.

In a Friday press conference, Obama praised Warren as a “dear friend” and “tremendous advocate,” but he has not named her as his nominee. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs this week said a nomination will be announced soon.

"In July, the president signed into law the strongest consumer protections in history and while he hasn’t made a decision on who will head the consumer agency, Elizabeth Warren will play an important role regardless in ensuring that the agency is as effective as possible in its mission to protect American families," White House spokeswoman Amy Brundage said in an email this weekend.

The White House defends its record on gender diversity in federal agencies and on policy issues more broadly.

"The first bill the president signed into law when taking office was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act to ensure equal pay for equal work, and he established by executive order the White House Council on Women and Girls to tackle the challenges confronted by women and ensure agencies consider how their policies and programs impact women and families," Brundage said.

An administration official pointed to a series of advisers and regulatory agencies headed by women. Goolsbee was promoted, the official said, because of his close ties to the president and relationships with many of the administration's economic advisers.

Obama has named roughly the same number of women to powerful Cabinet posts as President George W. Bush.

Under the Obama administration, women lead powerful agencies and departments, including the State Department, Department of Health and Human Services, Labor Department, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Obama has also nominated two women, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, to the Supreme Court.

Women also have key roles on his economic team, including Diana Farrell, deputy director of the National Economic Council, and Lael Brainard, Treasury Secretary for International Affairs.

But women's rights groups have focused some of their criticism on the administration's core group of economic advisers at Treasury, the National Economic Council and Council of Economic Advisers.

Romer was the most prominent woman to advise the president on the economy, although she was not as frequent a public presence as other members of the team.

Larry Summers, head of the National Economic Council, and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner have been the most public faces of the administration's effort to support the economy and rein in Wall Street. Both have faced constant criticism from liberals.

Geithner has repeatedly sought to correct the misperception that he worked on Wall Street or even at Goldman Sachs specifically. A longtime government employee, Geithner was the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York before Obama nominated him as Treasury Secretary.

Women's rights groups have criticized Summers since he made comments as head of Harvard University that women may not have the same innate abilities in math and science as men. The firestorm surrounding the comments eventually contributed to his departure as president of Harvard.

O'Neill said the president would receive a broader range of advice with more women in powerful administration positions.

"Many women have become the sole breadwinners, but because of the wage gap, as the sole breadwinner they can't provide for their families as men can," O'Neill said. "If you had half of the economic advisers being women, I think that perspective would come to the forefront."