A lengthy and closed-door meeting last week in Chicago between former foes President-elect Barack Obama and New York Senator Hillary Clinton has fueled speculation by some political pundits that the new president is considering the former first lady for a key post in his administration–possibly as secretary of state.

While neither side is confirming or denying the pervaive assertion, several published reports–including at least two citing senior officials in the Clinton camp–acknowl- edge that Clinton was indeed offered the post during the meeting. Officials said she requested time to consider the offer. Throughout his campaign, Obama has pledged a commitment to naming a diverse mixture of appointees to his cabinet–including a wide range of well-known and powerful women.

According to the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP)–a unit of the nationally revered Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University in New Jersey–former President Bill Clinton appointed more women to his cabinet than any other chief executive. At one time during his terms, Clinton had women appointed in nearly half of all cabinet or cabinet-level positions. “Women’s votes were a significant factor in the victory of President-elect Obama,” said CAWP director, Debbie Walsh. “Now, we hope his administration will reflect the nation’s diversity, including many strong women like those who have helped shape his life and career.”

According to various reports and studies, the first woman appointed to a presidential cabinet was Frances Perkins, who was named secretary of labor by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1933. Since then, women have been appointed to various cabinet or cabinet-level positions by every president, except Harry Truman and John Kennedy. Currently, five women serve in the administration of President George W. Bush–less than one-third of the total 21 cabinet or cabinet-level positions.

It remains unclear when a formal announcement will be made of Clinton’s role, if any, in the Obama administration. The Obama transition office has established a web site for people interested in being considered for federal appointive offices. The web address is www.change.gov/page/s/application.