Here is the money quote:
And — and so we — we took a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet.
I went to a number of women’s groups and said, “Can you help us find folks,” and they brought us whole binders full of women.
I was proud of the fact that after I staffed my Cabinet and my senior staff, that the University of New York in Albany did a survey of all 50 states, and concluded that mine had more women in senior leadership positions than any other state in America.
Here is Atrios' response:
Jokes aside, the binders of women comment was basically the core of all of the mostly mythical affirmative action in this country. It's about recognizing that if you're a product of a good old white boy network, it's a good idea to make the effort to read those binders, to make the extra effort to look at qualified women and minorities.
This isn't a comment on what actually happened when Mitt was in office, just pointing out that if you embrace that story you embrace affirmative action, because aside from a teeny bit of minority business contracting and civil service hiring provisions, that's what affirmative action actually means in this country.
And here, after approvingly quoting the above passage from Atrios, is Digby:
Romney made a great case for affirmative action, something his party adamantly opposes. But it's so common sense that he could say it in the debate and nobody even noticed. Not even Fox.
Maybe it's because I'm a white male and, unlike the crew at GOP TV, not a corporate flunky, but I noticed. And I noticed that it came from a guy who couldn't even concede in a nationwide, widely watched debate, that he supports a requirement of equal pay for equal work.
Despite appearances, this is no contradiction. Mitt Romney had no problem hiring qualified women because it is the thing that is done in a modern society- and, well, this was Massachusetts, after all. As a corporation in a suit, Romney has no problem with businesses, small or large, hiring women as well as men. Nor would he object to those enterprises paying women as much as men- or less, or twice as much. He simply doesn't want them to be required to do so, or to do anything they don't want to do.
This applies to all businesses from the "mom 'n pop" the wealthy typically laud (but rarely patronize- except in the sense of condescending toward) to Exxon Mobil, for which the GOP toils. Not surprisingly, even Eschaton and Digby apparently didn't notice
Now one of the reasons I was able to get so many good women to be part of that team was because of our recruiting effort. But number two, because I recognized that if you’re going to have women in the workforce that sometimes you need to be more flexible. My chief of staff, for instance, had two kids that were still in school.
She said, I can’t be here until 7 or 8 o’clock at night. I need to be able to get home at 5 o’clock so I can be there for making dinner for my kids and being with them when they get home from school. So we said fine. Let’s have a flexible schedule so you can have hours that work for you.
Here, Romney inadvertently, casually and without notice, distinguishes between those mom 'n pop stores and Exxon Mobil. It is primarily the latter which are capable of altering the workplace to accommodate employees with special needs. Small businesses will do so when pressed against the wall, when they have an employee essential to the success of the outfit. They are displeased but have no choice because survival of the business may be at stake.
Large corporations have the capability of surviving fairly large numbers of employees whom they accommodate. They may even have a division assigned to work out arrangements for their workers. They have a luxury small employers do not. And if it means giving the employee "a flexible schedule," they may be able to squeeze more hours of work or lower pay from that worker. It's a corporate victory, one many progressives find exquisitely progressive.
So don't get too excited about the Republican nominee's nod to affirmative action. Obviously, he is sufficiently condescending that he believes he he has to go out of his way to find qualified women. But he knows also that any modern executive, private sector or public sector, can't automatically exclude 50% of the population from consideration, and that there are enough right-wing women devoted to the cause of the 1% to stock a Romney administration.