How Many Women Does It Take To Change A Broken Congress?


Published:

Currently, there are 84 women in the U.S. House of Representatives. That number is about to rise to at least 100.

Office of Nancy Pelosi

The next United States Congress will have at least 123 women in the House and Senate, including two Muslim-American women, two Native American women and two 29-year-olds.

Ten more women could still win in midterm races that remain too close to call.

Starting in 2019, women will make up nearly a quarter of the 435-member House of Representatives – a record high. Currently, there are 84 women in the House.

The female newcomers women will make waves in government – and not just because women legislators often bring greater attention to wage gaps, family leave policy, sexual harassment, child abuse and other critical issues that disproportionately affect women.

As scholars who study political leadership, we believe more women will be also good for Congress for a more fundamental reason: They may just get a broken system working again.

Women Try To Collaborate

Washington has been ferociously polarized since the 2016 presidential election, but Republicans and Democrats across the nation have been moving further apart ideologically since the 1990s.

There used to be overlap between the views of Democrats and Republicans, at least on some issues. Now, there is almost none.

Ninety-two percent of Republicans now sit to the right of the median Democrat, while 94 percent of Democrats sit to the left of the median Republican, the nonpartisan Pew Research Center reports.

In Congress, the two parties thwart each other’s legislation and demonize their political opponents as unpatriotic or untruthful.

Americans now see the conflicts between Democrats and Republicans as more extreme than those dividing urban and rural residents or black and white people, Pew surveys show.

The 123 women elected to both houses of Congress – 103 Democrats and 20 Republicans – have the potential to work across the partisan divide.

Numerous studies on gender and problem-solving show that women are often bridge builders, collaborating to find the solutions to tricky problems.

Our research confirms these findings. In one 2017 study on leadership styles, we found that women are more likely to use inclusive “both/and” thinking, meaning they see conflict and tensions as opportunities for input rather than problems.

Men are more likely to adopt “either/or” thinking – attitudes that advance their own agendas and denigrate those of the other side.

Women Build Bridges

Women have played this role in Congress before.

When the federal government shut down for 16 days in 2013 over a budget impasse, for example, it was a group of five female senators – three Republicans and two Democrats – who broke the stalemate. Together, they launched a bipartisan effort and negotiated a deal to end the budget showdown.

“The women are taking over,” joked the late Arizona Sen. John McCain.

These days, it seems, McCain’s commentary is less of a joke than a political need.

Numerous studies on teamwork show that groups with women in them function better, in part because women are more likely than men to build social connections that enable conflict resolution.

In other words, female workers in organizations become friends, mentors and helpful colleagues, which builds the trust necessary for solving problems.

Women are not the only people who work like this. In large organizations, minorities tend to seek each other out and form support networks that span hierarchy, job description and even political divides.

Men can build bridges too, of course. Gender does not dictate personality or decision-making style.

McCain, for example, was known for his bipartisan legislative efforts.

But research and history show that women leaders collaborate more often – and better.

A Human Rights System Based On Consensus

Eleanor Roosevelt, an outspoken human rights advocate and wife of U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt, offers a classic example of such behavior.

She led the United Nations working group that drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights after World War II. That landmark 1948 document recognized, for the first time in history, that all people on the planet are guaranteed certain rights, regardless of religion, race or political creed.

The declaration, which was approved by 48 of the 58 countries then in the United Nations, launched the contemporary human rights movement that overcame dictatorship in Latin America, isolated apartheid-era South Africa, enshrined the rights of LGBTQ people worldwide and, today, works to protect refugees and asylum-seekers.

These lasting achievements did not come about because Roosevelt strong-armed other countries.

Instead, the American first lady famously worked to keep her UN colleagues focused on the urgency of devising and passing the declaration, despite criticism, doubt, cultural difference, ego trips and distractions.

After the agreement, Roosevelt insisted that her leadership subcommittee elect a new chair to show the world what effective democratic process looks like.

Women Craft Better Deals

Women typically adopt more democratic leadership styles, seeking out more participation from everyone in a group. The evidence shows that solutions crafted that way are longer-lasting.

The Council on Foreign Relations has found, for example, that peace talks with women at the negotiating table were more likely to reach an agreement – and that the deals passed were more likely to endure over time.

That kind of inclusive deal-making could change the House of Representatives.

Congress often swings wildly on major policy issues as political winds change, with the new majority party shredding the partisan advances of a previous administration.

Collaborative, bipartisan legislation allows for more durable progress on issues like health care, immigration and the economy – all sure to be a focus for the next Congress.

Women In A Polarized Government

But Congress may not work any better with 123 women than it does with the 84 who serve there now.

Lawmakers are elected to represent their constituents’ interests. And with American society so extremely polarized, a two-party system discourages collaboration.

Many of the newly elected women in Congress additionally came to power on strong, oppositional platforms – promises to fight fiercely against the problems they see in American society.

If Congress’s newest members really want to make an impact – passing laws that aren’t undone after the next election – they will have to do more than push their own agendas. They can work together.

Given what research shows about female leadership, more women could push Washington in that direction.The Conversation

Wendy K. Smith, Professor of Business and Leadership, University of Delaware and Terry Babcock-Lumish, Visiting Scholar in Public Policy, University of Delaware.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

See also:
Believing In Activism Is How We Win
The Movement We Need

Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

Daily Astrology

December 12, 2018

A soothing sextile between the Sagittarius Sun and Aquarius Moon brightens the work day. Inner ease is promoted. The impact can also feel liberating as these are the two most freedom loving of signs. It’s a good day to attend to a financial matter or…
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Alternative Health Directory

Browse all listings »

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Calendar

December 2018

No Events
No Events

Join us the second Tuesday evening of the month for a Reiki Share in the Usui Reiki system of natural healing. We are a gathering of Reiki practitioners who share experiences, practice...

Cost: Free

Where:
Northeast Reiki Center
61 Nicholas Road, Suite B2
Framingham, MA  01701
View map »


Sponsor: Northeast Reiki Center
Telephone: 508-808-5696
Contact Name: Lou Orsan
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

The class is a combination of qi gong, yoga, meditation, and relaxation followed by a cup of healing tea. The class, developed by Korean enlightened master Ilchi Lee, is based on Sundo, a...

Cost: $10

Where:
Divine Paradigm
58b Macy St
Amesbury, MA  01913
View map »


Contact Name: Brad Fanger

More information

Please join us at our monthly meetings, second Wednesday each month September - June in Westboro, MA. A welcoming community working for the greater health and wellbeing of all. Contact...

Where:
Sohum Yoga and Meditation Studio
30 Lyman St
#108B
Westborough, MA
View map »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Journaling can be a part of your inner work and is, in fact, on the tree of contemplative practices.  Whether you are a meditator or keep a journal or neither of the above, all are welcome to...

Cost: Free

Where:
Waltham Public Library
735 Main Street
Waltham, MA  02451
View map »


Sponsor: Louise Goldstein
Telephone: 617-710-6145
Contact Name: Waltham Public Library
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
No Events

Sponsored by the Canton Spiritualist Church. Held at the Blue Hills, Canton, MA. Psychics, mediums, readings for a fee. Free healings.

Cost: Free admission

Where:
Blue Hills
Canton, MA


Sponsor: Canton Spiritualist Church
Telephone: (617) 469-2568

More information

Discover the power of body tapping and nature based solutions that will help you: More effectively manage and ease chronic pain issues. Clear stuck energy with body tapping. Learn the basic...

Cost: $49

Where:
Clearpoint Center
259 East Street
Stafford Springs, CT  06076
View map »


Sponsor: Clearpoint Center
Telephone: 860-684-3994
Contact Name: Steve Munn
Website »

More information

With Susie Masters We warmly invite you to join us for The Winter Solstice Workshop. Celebrate the shortest day while giving yourself the space to feel and experience the now. During this...

Cost: $45

Where:
State of Grace Yoga and Wellness Center
104 East. Hartford Ave.
Uxbridge, MA  01569
View map »


Telephone: 508-278-2818
Website »

More information

All are invited to a special barefoot, free style dance and live music event on December 15th from 7:30pm–10pm in Greenfield, Massachusetts. We will be having a special freestyle, barefoot...

Cost: $5-$10

Where:
The Episcopal Church of St. James & Andrew
71 Federal St.
Greenfield, MA  01301
View map »


Sponsor: Dance Spree
Telephone: (413)658-7011 (no texting please)
Contact Name: Jasper Lapienski
Website »

More information

Tired of missing opportunities that could further your life, your education, even your work? Tired of missing threats that continue to hold back your life, your education, even your work? Sit down...

Cost: $40

Where:
Caffe Nero
368 Congress St
Boston, MA  02210
View map »


Contact Name: Soni
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags