Lessons from the Women of the 113th
Like many people across the country, AAUW and Running Start are celebrating the record number of women who are now getting settled in the 113th Congress. Every year, we collaborate to encourage and train college women to run for student government with Elect Her–Campus Women Win, and these congresswomen exemplify many of the lessons we teach during those trainings.
We always start out our Elect Her trainings with a discussion of why having women in office is a win-win for everyone. Women’s political representation comes with many benefits:
- More women in government results in a more balanced and productive work environment. Just ask Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), who believes more women at the table would have eased discussions of the fiscal cliff. “With all deference to our male colleagues, women’s styles tend to be more collaborative,” she said. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) agrees: She says women “know how to compromise and how to set our egos aside. It’s more part of our DNA.”
- Also, when women are at the table, government tends to be more ethical and less corrupt. This year we will watch as longtime consumer advocate and fighter of Wall Street corruption Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) takes her seat on the Senate Banking Committee.
If women bring so much to the table, why don’t more women run for office?
- It’s no secret that women face much more media scrutiny than their male peers. Just this week, a profile of freshman Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) noted her love of designer clothing and accused her of — get this — talking too much.
- The adage “you can’t be what you can’t see” holds true as well. Many women think government is not for them because they don’t see women in office. That is about to change, thanks to the most diverse Congress in history. We’re continuing to see that government is no longer just for white men — anyone can run for office and win. The demographics and stereotypes are dissolving. Among many other firsts, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) is the first practicing Hindu to be elected to Congress. She was even sworn in using the Bhagavad-Gita!
At every Elect Her training, we end with a few more words of encouragement and reasons why college women should run for office:
- When women run, they win at the same rates as men. Case in point: Every female senator who was up for re-election won her race in November.
- Getting campaign experience in college is so important! Women need to run for office while they are young in order to build seniority on the same time line as men. For example, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was first elected to Congress at age 47, much later in life than most of her male peers.
As the spring 2013 Elect Her trainings get underway next month, I am excited to continue talking about and learning from the women of the 113th!