In an animated debate last night, Governor Romney made at least one camera-ready gaffe. In describing how, as Governor of Massachusetts, he placed women in top leadership roles, he says his managers brought him "binders full of women" to choose from. It was tone-deaf and awkward, and I'm sure his campaign manager winced a bit when he heard it.

But Romney's next comment, in the following sentence, contained really the troublesome part: It was just not true.

Romney continued on to say, "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."

Ignoring the fact that there is no "University of New York in Albany"--he means SUNY Albany or University of Albany--I did some rudimentary fact-checking to see what this report was all about. Pretty soon, I came across the report in question: "Women's Leadership Profile, 2004."

Nowhere in that report does it "conclude" that Massachusetts, or Romney, had "more women in senior leadership positions than any other state in America."

In Massachusetts, women held 54.5% of top advisor roles. Which, to give Romney some credit, absolutely was higher than the national average.

The only problem is that several other states have a higher percentage of women in top advisor roles. In Arizona, women held 61.3%. In Florida, it was 57.1%. In Iowa, 60%.

At best, Romney's statement was a casual exaggeration. At worst, it was a lie. 

Now, let's go a step further, because one study is never really good enough when it comes to statistics. I decided to take a more holistic look at policy leadership on a state-by-state level. Luckily, I didn't have to go to far. The same researchers within Center for Women in Government & Civil Society at SUNY Albany authored a 2005 report titled Women in State Policy Leadership, 1998 - 2005 An Analysis of Slow and Uneven Progress.
Here's where you can really see how states compare when it comes to women in leadership and policy roles. On page four, the researchers rank "State Data on Total Women Policy Leaders in Executive, Legislative and Judicial Branches."

In 1998, Massachusetts ranked 25. In 2005--after Romney assumed office--the state moved up merely three spots to 22.

Arizona was first. Then Nevada. Then 19 other states until you finally get to Massachusetts.

In other words, when it comes to putting women in leadership roles, Romney and his campaign have been, well, completely and utterly unremarkable.
Update: Earlier this morning, a representative from the University at Albany sent us a report dating back to 2004 that looks at a five-year trend analysis of gender, race, and ethnicity of appointed policy makers in state government. According to the Albany rep, the report had not been online because of various website redesigns over the years, but this morning, they put it back up.
 
Massachusetts, as Romney pointed out, ranks No. 1. However, the reality is Romney had very little to do with this ranking.  In the debate, Romney finished his statement saying: "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."
As David Bernstein points out at The Phoenix, "What actually happened was that in 2002 -- prior to the election, not even knowing yet whether it would be a Republican or Democratic administration -- a bipartisan group of women in Massachusetts formed MassGAP to address the problem of few women in senior leadership positions in state government. There were more than 40 organizations involved with the Massachusetts Women's Political Caucus (also bipartisan) as the lead sponsor...They did the research and put together the binder full of women qualified for all the different cabinet positions, agency heads, and authorities and commissions. They presented this binder to Governor Romney when he was elected." 
In other words, Romney had nothing to do with the No. 1 ranking, and to claim credit for it would be misleading. In fact, during his tenure as governor, the number of women in high-ranking positions actually declined. 
Bernstein continues: "Secondly, a UMass-Boston study found that the percentage of senior-level appointed positions held by women actually declined throughout the Romney administration, from 30.0% prior to his taking office, to 29.7% in July 2004, to 27.6% near the end of his term in November 2006."