The news makes it official. We have a “year of the woman.” Not the first. Another. There was one in 1992. We have a new record of women in the U.S. House of Representatives, 100 or more (pending final results). There are 31 first-time women representatives – vs. 24 in 1992.
There were a number of firsts, in terms of diversity, in this election. These include two native American women and two Muslim women elected to Congress, two Hispanic representatives elected in Texas, and the first openly gay man to be elected governor – in my home state (he joins one LGBT woman elected governor).
If you made it through the last few months and didn’t turn off all the news coverage, you know there was lots of talk about educated suburban women having a big say in national politics. The Women’s March and the #MeToo movement put a lot of women into action. There are a number of organizations, including She Should Run and Ignite, that have sprung up to encourage and prepare women to run. They step in to forward the mission of The Whitehouse Project (1998-2013).
So women are recognized for their power in influencing election outcomes and their power in successfully running for office. I don’t much like the stereotypical term, “pink wave.” But I won’t fuss.
Yes, this is good news for women. It reflects movement in the right direction for women having the opportunity to contribute and to achieve their potential. It chips away at those historically masculine images of political leadership – which can broaden the image of leadership in all spheres. But it is also great news for our country.
We know the “business case” for diversity and gender diversity. Research is irrefutable that mixed-gender groups do better, and companies with gender diversity at the leadership level outperform companies without diversity at the top. Experts hesitate to assign causality –i.e., to say that companies do better because of women. Here’s what I think. In a group with a mix of genders, there is more likely to be both masculine and feminine styles and strengths. The masculine style of making decisions is to follow orders, focus on the goal and pursue it in a linear, efficient way. The feminine style involves more process, asking more questions, involving others, and synthesizing input. Having both styles on a team leads to the better decisions than come from teams dominated by either the masculine or feminine style.
So I celebrate this increase in gender diversity in Washington and our state capitols! Let’s see if having more women can do other things – like more collaboration!