Monday, October 21, 2013

We Need More Women at the Plate

Watching Shane Victorino’s grand slam fly over the Green Monster was the perfect way to cap off the Red Sox pennant-winning season. Victorino came to Boston on a contract that seemed far too rich for his resume to join a team that performed way too poorly for what they were paid. While the team showed its grit all year long, it took that blast to secure Victorino’s spot in Boston sports lore and send this improbable team of awesome onto the next chapter of a magical season. Sometimes the right person just has to step up to the plate at the right time.

When the dust from the federal shutdown-showdown settled in Washington last week, there were no grand slams and no winners. Federal workers faced two weeks of uncertainty and financial peril, access to government resources were limited and Congress’ approval rating reached an all-time low. As the impasse ended, several news outlets noted that the brokers of compromise were (wait for it) moderate Republican women!  While the men on the far left and far right were busy bashing their heads against a wall and pointing fingers, Senator Susan Collins (ME), Senator Lisa Murkowski (AK) and Senator Kelly Ayotte (NH) stepped into the fray and created the framework for compromise with Democratic colleagues Senator Barbara Mikulski (MD) and Senator Patty Murray (WA).

The New York Times captured the perfect quote from Senator Collins, “I don’t think it’s a coincidence that women were so heavily involved in trying to end this stalemate. Although we span the ideological spectrum, we are used to working together in a collaborative way.” Without being disrespectful, this sounds like they were able to reduce the shutdown showdown to the politics of a PTO meeting – and kept everyone talking until the bake sale brouhaha was resolved. The truth is that women get things done because we have to – we have far too much #$%^ to do to hang around jawing about ideology, what the Framers (who had someone watching their kids and cooking their meals so they could think) would say and whether it’s going to cost us a Senate seat. In the same New York Times piece, Senator Murkowski said, “I probably will have retribution in my state. That’s fine. That doesn’t bother me at all. If there is backlash, hey, that’s what goes on in D.C., but in the meantime there is a government that is shut down. There are people who are really hurting…Politics be damned.” You go girl!

The one thing that I’ll take away from the federal shutdown is that we need more women in politics. So why don’t more women run for office? The answer is predictable: we’re busy. We’re working, raising children, taking care of parents, volunteering in the community and supporting our spouses (not necessarily in that order). The less politically correct and more uncomfortable truth is that politics and governing has never been “women’s work” in American culture and young women are still reticent to say that they want to lead when they grow up. Sometimes it will get them a pat on the head and sometime the response is “then who will raise your children?”  ARGH.

There are some signs that the tide is turning. This week the Colt-Andrews Student Government swears in its second consecutive all-girl slate of officers (shout out to my little Parliamentarian) and in 2014 we can expect more women to contend for statewide office in Rhode Island. I don’t expect to turn things around in one season, but I will be encouraging more women to step up to the plate – and you should too.

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