The pattern is particularly striking for a president who was elected with majority support from women and racial minorities and focused heavily during his reelection campaign on women’s health concerns and equal pay in the workplace. Obama won 55 percent of the female vote to Republican rival Mitt Romney’s 44 percent.

Obama is committed to “finding the very best people for each job,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said Monday, when asked about the lack of women among the second-term appointments. “And that’s what he’s done today, and that’s what he’ll continue to do.”…

“I think he’s blowing a huge opportunity here for reasons I don’t even get,” said Rosa Brooks, a professor on national security at Georgetown University who spent two years working for Flournoy at the Pentagon.

“It would have been fantastic for this president to appoint the first woman secretary of defense,” Brooks said, “particularly given we are so embroiled at this moment in the ongoing conflict in the Islamic world, where the suppression of women is such a major issue. It was a chance for us to show we’re leading by example.”