It’s also worth mentioning that the U.S. treasurer is a more ceremonial job distinct from the powerful treasury secretary—a position that has only ever been held by white men, currently by Jack Lew of meme-worthy signature fame. Current treasurer Rosa Gumataotao Rios, the sixth Latina ever to hold the position, advises top Treasury and finance officials and directly oversees the U.S. Mint and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. But Rios cannot create policy the way Lew or Yellen can, nor is her job as crucial to the functioning of the administration as theirs is. Ever since a woman was first appointed, the treasurer position has seen long stretches of vacancies—totaling 3,359 days, or nine years.
So far, all of this points to an ugly, hackle-raising word—tokenism. Rios herself has rejected this assertion.
Part of the decision to choose women and minorities for the treasurer position can boil down to “optics,” according to Alice Eagly, a social psychologist at Northwestern University who has published extensively on women and leadership. Eagly notes that it’s easier for presidents to actively engineer diversity with less-scrutinized positions like treasurer, compared with say, Yellen’s job, for which she wasn’t even the first pick.