Studies, real-life experience show that more women in power equals better leadership, better policy, better outcomes.
The numbers are nigh unto astonishing.
Women, reported FiveThirtyEight.com on Aug. 10, are competing in 69 percent of open Democratic Congressional primaries this year (races in which there’s no incumbent Democrat).
As of that date, women had won 65 percent (90 of 138) of Congress’ already-decided open Democratic primary races involving at least one man and one woman. They now represent nearly half of all Democratic nominees whose primary elections have wrapped up.
And when the votes were counted the night of Aug. 14, three more Democratic women House candidates had been tapped to move on to the November general election.
They include Jahana Hayes, the 2016 National Teacher of the Year, who, if she wins in Connecticut’s 5th District, will become the first black woman to represent her state in Congress.
Also nominated was Ilhan Omar, running in Minnesota’s 5th District. She’ll become the first Somali-American elected to Congress if she wins.
And there’s Angie Craig. She’ll be running for Minnesota’s 2nd House District in November in a rematch of her 2016 race against Rep. Jason Lewis, who narrowly outpolled her for the open seat that year. Lewis attracted national media attention in July, when CNN’s KFile reviewed audio from Lewis’ 2009-2014 syndicated radio program and shared clips of the Congressman “lamenting that women can no longer be called ‘sluts’” and saying “’young single women’…vote based on coverage of birth control pills…[are] not human beings and [are] without brains.”
That oughta boost his chances with Minnesota’s women voters, don’t ya think?
And, yes, Virginia, while there are Republican women running, they’re not competing at anything approaching the level of their Democratic counterparts. There are almost three times as many Democratic women in Congress as GOP women, with the November general election expected to further widen that gap.
Why? Because today’s GOP doesn’t think electing more women should be a goal. As Perry Bacon, Jr., wrote in FiveThirtyEight.com on June 25, “Any effort to get more Republican women elected would face hurdles almost every step of the way” – with both GOP primary voters and party activists who help choose candidates skewing more conservative, and therefore less pro-woman, than the GOP’s general election voter pool.
When CNN asked voters in late 2017 if the country would be “governed better or governed worse if more women were in political office,” 83 percent of Democrats, but just 36 percent of Republicans, said “better” (with 21 percent of Republicans saying “worse” and 28 percent saying it would make no difference).
So, if you’re a woman who intends to vote for one of the many Democratic women candidates running this November, you’d better steel yourself for the inevitable cranky mansplainer already gearing up to lecture you about how you’re wasting your vote in a petulant, emotionally-motivated and meaningless reaction to 2016. (If you’re voting for one of the Republican women – hey, thanks for trying to bring your party into the 21st Century, and lucky you for being somewhat less of a target of misogynistic criticism!)
Those curmudgeons will assert that you’re angry because Hillary lost. You’re just a sore loser. You’re voting for someone simply because she has a uterus and not because she can do the job.
They’d be wrong.
Because years of research tells us that, when more women hold public office, their presence changes things – for the better.
So here’s some scientifically proven ammunition for you to lob at all those nattering nabobs of negativism who challenge the wisdom of your vote for “that gal.”
More women, greater results
When more women are among those holding positions of legislative power, more laws get passed that positively affect women’s lives.
Iceland’s Parliament offers a great example. After it became almost 50 percent female in October 2016, the nation’s governing body quickly passed legislation that made it illegal as of Jan. 1, 2018, for employers there to pay women less than men. Companies with 25 or more employees are now subject to fines if they fail the government’s pay certification review.
Michele Swers, a political scientist at Georgetown University, told Vox in March 2018 that her research consistently finds that “women in Congress tend to shift the conversation to focus more on bills and policies that relate to women specifically – such as increasing paid leave or prosecuting violence against women.”
Swers also reported that liberal female legislators co-sponsored an average of 10.6 bills focused on women’s health, an average of 5.3 more than their liberal male colleagues.
Women legislators are also more effective, wrote Vox reporter Sarah Kiff. “One recent study of Congress since 2009 found that the average female legislator had 2.31 of her bills enacted, compared with men, who turned 1.57 bills into law.”
Women even bring more bacon back to their home districts. On average, Kiff said, “Female legislators sent 9 percent more funds back to their districts than their male colleagues.”
Getting the job done – it’s a girl thing
Why do women seem to be more effective lawmakers? It could be gender-based differences in how they work with others, say researchers.
Writing in The New York Times on Nov. 10, 2016, Claire Cain Miller reported that “A variety of research has found that women interrupt less (but are interrupted more), pay closer attention to other people’s nonverbal cues and use a more democratic leadership style compared with men’s more autocratic style…women build coalitions and reach consensus more quickly…”
Or, as Michael A. Genovese, director of the Institute for Leadership Studies at Loyola Marymount University, told Miller, “Women share their power more; men guard their power.”
Kelly Dittmar, a scholar at the Center for American Women and Politics and a political science professor at Rutgers University, has another perspective. She told The Atlantic’s Andrew McGill on Aug. 23, 2016, that, “Women, far more than men, prize results over status.”
A 2001 survey of members of Congress backs up Dittmar’s assertion. It found that the number one reason women run for office “is the ability to effect change in society. The number one reason for men? They always wanted to be a politician.”
“Women just want to get things done,” Dittmar told McGill. “They’re not in it for the show.”
Even law and order can play out differently when women assume power. Take South Fulton, Georgia, an Atlanta suburb where an all-black, all-woman team now staffs the entire criminal justice system, from city prosecutor to chief judge to public defender, court administrator and court clerks.
“While insisting on upholding the law,” wrote Timothy Pratt in the Washington Post on Aug. 3, “the women…hope their approaches to criminal justice exhibit ‘empathy’ and ‘nurturing,’ as well as respect for the city’s residents.
That philosophy has resulted in sentencing shoplifters to attend city council meetings; requiring people found guilty of driving without a license to register to vote and obtain a license in exchange for a reduced fine; and placing some offenders who can’t afford their fines on the city’s “green team,” where they work with the city’s parks and recreation department for $15 an hour.
They’re trying, city prosecutor Blackett Jones, to create “a framework for community-oriented courts that could be an example for the world.”
Will women win?
Up in Michigan, voters have a chance in November to test the “women do it better” hypothesis in a big way: every Democrat nominated for statewide office – Governor, U.S. Senate, Attorney General and Secretary of State – is a woman. Gubernatorial candidate Gretchen Whitmer still has to choose her lieutenant governor running mate, but female candidates feature prominently on her short list.
While Whitmer considers her gender “incidental to her candidacy,” wrote the Washington Post’s Karen Tumulty, AG candidate Dana Nessel made it her chief rallying cry during last fall’s tough fight for the state party endorsement – which hit in the midst of a host of high-profile sexual-abuse scandals. In an ad that quickly went viral, Nessel asked voters, “When you’re choosing Michigan’s next attorney general, ask yourself this: Who can you trust most not to show you their penis in a professional setting? Is it the candidate who doesn’t have a penis? I’d say so.”
And if that doesn’t convince voters, President Obama’s Environmental Protection Administrator Gina McCarthy offered another reason to vote female, during a March 23, 2018 appearance on Real Time With Bill Maher. Slamming both Trump and the GOP for their climate change skepticism, McCarthy declared, “This is all you really need to know about climate change. Number one, it’s real. Number two, manmade emissions caused it. And number three, that’s why women need to rule the world. I’m sick of cleaning up after you guys!”