'Are the women hiding under the desk?': Defense Sec. criticized for photo lacking diversity

Nicholas Wu, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON – Defense Secretary Mark Esper drew criticism for a picture of Defense Department leadership and President Donald Trump that appeared to include no women or minorities.

"Thank you @POTUS & @FLOTUS for hosting me & @DeptofDefense leadership for dinner yesterday at the @WhiteHouse, and for the continued leadership & support for the incredible men & women who serve to defend the Nation at home and abroad," Esper had written on Tuesday, posting a picture from their meeting.

Esper and other military leaders had been meeting with Trump and First Lady Melania Trump at the White House for a social dinner with officers and spouses. 

Trump's critics were quick to notice a seeming lack of diversity in the picture. 

"Oh, you mean the incredible women who aren't in this picture?" wrote Democratic congressional candidate Eva Putzova. 

"Are the women hiding under the desk?" asked pundit Cheri Jacobus.

California Governor Gavin Newsom quipped, "the diversity is truly overwhelming." 

"It's imperative for our national security that U.S. government leadership represents the diversity of the United States. All agencies must do better," wrote the Twitter account for the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

"No women. No people of color. This doesn't look good," said Amanda Cronkhite. 

A 2017 Congressional Research Service report notes that active duty service members are actually more racially diverse than the U.S. resident population, as nonwhite service members account for about a third of active-duty enlisted servicemembers. Racial minorities are underrepresented among the officer corps, though, the report found. 

Women are about 17% of the active-duty armed forces, and are about 20% of the officer corps, according to the Congressional Research Service.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Defense Sec. Esper criticized for picture with Trump lacking diversity