That was clear many years later when Romney, newly elected as governor of Massachusetts, hired Taylor to be his executive assistant. “I went in for the interview and he said, ‘You look familiar to me.’ And I said I had been president of Exponent II. And he chuckled. And I said, ‘Is that going to be a problem?’ And he said, ‘Not for me.’ And he hired me on the spot,” she said.
Taylor said working with Romney years after their confrontations showed her that he had changed. “When he ran for governor, he was a different person, more mature,” said Taylor. “He’s just experienced a lot more life and has a lot more realistic perspective.... Knowing him now, I believe he would respond in very different ways than he did back then.”
The Romney campaign declined to respond to questions about his record with women as a bishop or stake leader, and whether his advice would be different now. But the campaign—which has a female press secretary and communications director—did offer up a 2004 report by the Center for Women in Government and Civil Society. It found that during Romney’s administration, the Massachusetts government had a 50-50 ratio of men to women in cabinet and senior policy positions, higher than any other state. Second-ranked Connecticut had only 36 percent women.
Beth Myers, who was Romney’s chief of staff in his governor’s office and is now a senior adviser to his campaign, said Romney aggressively recruited women for top positions, several of them from a book of women’s resumes compiled at his request by the bipartisan Massachusetts Government Appointments Project. As a manager, she said, Romney pushed everyone—women and men—to work hard, but also expected employees to make time for family: “The working premise was we would work our hardest and give 110 percent, and he was flexible about hours spent with kids.”
Alan Wolfe, a professor of religion at Boston College, said that while Mormons still hold strict doctrinal views on women within the church, a slow evolution has happened for some in public life. “On race and gender, Mormons have not been in the forefront of the march for equality,” Wolfe said. “But there is a change going on. Mormons, like Romney, have been successful in business and politics, and the more you experience those worlds, the more you see the change. Romney could be a strict Mormon and still appoint women to his Cabinet and Supreme Court.”
Some Democrats say those early episodes as a church leader may come back to haunt Romney. “People are going to think that they are out of the mainstream,” said Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster and co-author, with Republican pollster Kellyanne Fitzpatrick, of What Women Really Want. She added, “I can see examples like these being used to get out the vote. These would alienate young women, unmarried men, and young people, who would think these ideas seem like something from 200 years ago.”