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Analysts: Women's Progress Entering Top US Positions is Uneven

Caroline Kennedy addresses the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., September 6, 2012.Caroline Kennedy addresses the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., September 6, 2012.
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Caroline Kennedy addresses the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., September 6, 2012.
Caroline Kennedy addresses the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., September 6, 2012.
Pamela Dockins
U.S. President Barack Obama is said to be considering women for several key positions in his administration that have previously been held by men.  Analysts say despite the potential political gains for women in the United States, their entry into the upper echelons of government remains uneven.  

U.S. officials say counter-terrorism adviser Lisa Monaco is on President Barack Obama's short list to head the F.B.I.  If Monaco is selected to replace retiring Director Robert Mueller it would mark the first time a woman has led the agency.

Obama is also said to be considering Caroline Kennedy for U.S. ambassador to Japan.  If selected, the daughter of former U.S. President John F. Kennedy would be the first woman to serve as the American envoy to that country.

Obama recently installed Julia Pierson as head of the Secret Service, making her the first woman to lead the agency that protects the president and his family.

The president commented on the uniqueness of Pierson's position during her March swearing-in ceremony.

"She is breaking the mold in terms of directors of the agency and I think that people are all extraordinarily proud of her," said Obama.

The male-dominated Secret Service came under harsh criticism last year, when some of its agents were implicated in a scandal involving prostitutes in Colombia.

Analyst Judith Warner of the Center for American Progress said on VOA's Encounter program it is notable that a woman is now in charge of the Secret Service.

"It is always very significant, particularly symbolically and practically as well, when a woman is brought to head an agency or comes to be very prominent in an organization that is typically very much identified with a strong kind of masculine or macho culture, which certainly the Secret Service is," she said.

According to analyst Shari Bryan of the Washington-based National Democratic Institute policy group, such moves do not occur often enough.

Bryan says women are often "marginalized" or "sidelined" into what she calls "softer" positions - jobs that appear to be more related to women's issues.  On the other hand, she says men are sometimes groomed for certain jobs.

"One of the things we do not talk about is the fact that most men who come into politics do not necessarily come with expertise or a background in budget and finance or military operations, but they are given those opportunities because of male leadership," said Bryan.

In addition to facing challenges in moving into certain types of leadership roles, Bryan says women continue to face challenges in advancing professionally depending on where they live.  

"There are certain regions of the world that still have very low levels of women’s participation, particularly in the Middle East, while other regions such as Latin America and parts of Africa are excelling in participation and there are different reasons for that," said Bryan.

She says those reasons include strategies such as the use of quotas to ensure a certain percentage of elected officials are women.

Bryan says another change is that women's organizations are beginning to link up at a global level to advocate for women who are qualified for high-level government positions.

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