An odd turn of phrase has turned up the volume on issues facing women in the workplace.
contender Mitt Romney's "binders full of women" remark in his debate
with President Obama on Tuesday night immediately launched thousands of
jokes on Twitter and other social media, but by the next day reaction
was more serious. Both campaigns are competing hard for the votes of
women, who polls show are likely to decide the race.
used the phrase in response to a question about equal pay for women. He
said that when he became governor of Massachusetts, he asked women's
groups for potential appointees and received "whole binders full of
women" who were qualified.
O'Neill, president of the National Organization for Women, found
Romney's tone off-putting. The U.S. doesn't need the résumés of capable
women gathered in a binder, but instead needs better legislation on
topics such as equal pay, said O'Neill, who designates herself a
Both political parties quickly made use of the new catchphrase.
the president talked about women as breadwinners for American families,
Mitt Romney talked about them as résumés in a binder," said an e-mail
from Obama's campaign.
The Republican National Committee put out
an e-mail with an image of an empty binder under a headline that said,
"Obama's second-term agenda."
Running mate Paul Ryan defended
Romney on CBS' This Morning. "All he simply meant was that he went out
of his way to try to recruit qualified women," Ryan said. "And by the
way, he has an exceptional record of hiring women in very prominent
positions in his administration, and that's the point he was making."
media users were quick to lampoon Romney's words. One posting on the
image-sharing site Tumblr had pictures of 1950s housewives and a to-do
list in a binder that said "make dinner," "clean house" and "be seen,
One post said: "Help! I'm trapped in a binder and need to get home to make dinner!"
It comes with the political debate territory, said Allegra Aufderhaar, general manager at digital marketing agency Organic.
that can be interpreted as out of touch or parochial will be quickly
seized upon," she said. "Sound bites are like chum in the water" for
social media users.
People sometimes focus so much on one statement that a candidate's
point can get lost, such as Romney's reference to the relative presence
of women on his staff, she said.
On Twitter, the phrase "binders
full of women" and the hashtag #bindersfullofwomen each were mentioned
more than 120,000 times by Wednesday evening.
It's meaningful that
the issue is trending so high on social media, said Mary Baglivo, a top
executive at advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi.
"This is more than an awkward phrase," she said. "This has a lot of tension and passion and concern connected to it."
Romney's delivery was a little "tone deaf," she says, but "it's good we are shining more light on this topic."
noted that employers have to address the compensation disparity as well
as focus on the best ways to recruit and retain women.
women earned 77 cents on average for every dollar earned by men,
according to Catalyst, a research group specializing in women's issues.
really need to focus and to think long and hard to make it easier for
high-performing women to participate at meaningful levels and meaningful
ways," Baglivo said. "Let's bring on that conversation."