Op-Ed: Imagine 100 Women in Congress--Power in Numbers

 

By Laurie Kretchmar

Much of the reporting about a special congressional election in Florida describes it as the Washington Post just did as "a race that's shaping up as a microcosm of the national political battle over Obamacare."

That may be so.  One intriguing distinction that hasn't been reported yet is that if favorite Alex Sink wins the March election, the U.S. Congress for the first time in history will have 100 women serving at once.

100!

What a great symbolic milestone.

Symbolic because if the former chief financial officer for the state of Florida prevails, women will still hold less than 19 percent of all the House and Senate seats in the nation.  And in California, where I live, there are actually fewer women serving in Sacramento than a decade ago. So we’re definitely not anywhere near equal representation yet.

In fact, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research predicts that at the current glacial pace, the U.S. won’t reach parity in Congress until 2121.There’s no question we need to speed things up.

All the more reason, I say, to herald 100 as a milestone.

First, it’s easy to remember.

Until now, the number of women in Congress has been something of an obscure fact. One hundred will put it on the map.

Some people say a leader’s gender shouldn’t matter. To which I say, of course it shouldn’t matter.  But when you look at the lopsided numbers, it does matter.

In politics and business, it makes no sense to keep half the talent on the sidelines. We know from watching women in Congress that when you add women leaders, priorities change, from what’s on the agenda to what’s valued to what gets done. Think about Gillibrand’s taking up of family act.

There are other benefits to having women on your team. In business, publicly traded companies that have more women on their boards earn higher returns and those companies promote more women to senior management, as noted by Catalyst.

Indeed, the CEO of Kimberly Clark says that seeking talented women is “not about equity or fairness, it’s about winning.”

To me, it’s both – fairness and winning. 

I look forward to reaching 100 and more, well before a century goes by. And I hope that Congress starts to look more like a microcosm of the United States—in all its diversity.

 

Laurie Kretchmar is a social media consultant for business and nonprofit organizations, including close the gap CA, a campaign to recruit women to run for the California legislature.

Photo: EMILY's List