Florida House needs more women
There’s growing evidence that legislative bodies perform better when more women join the ranks. Aside from the type of legislation that both conservative and liberal women tend to agree on, they create an environment of collaboration even on the most disagreeable of policy matters.
Just last year we saw how the women of the U.S. Senate worked across the aisle to bring sanity to an otherwise chaotic situation. Sen. Susan Collins stood on the floor of the Senate and said, “I ask my Democratic and Republican colleagues to come together — we can do it. We can legislate responsibly and in good faith.”
The women brought everybody back to the negotiating table and drafted a path to collaboration and agreement, bringing to an end the government shutdown.
None other than Sen. John McCain, a lauded war hero, commented at the time that, “Leadership, I must fully admit, was provided primarily from women in the Senate.”
The 20 women in the Senate, and in particular the six that took part in the negotiations, showed how responsible government and commitment to public service comes before bickering, grandstanding and partisanship.
Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland, has said that, “Women are actually more inclined towards that more modern leadership, which is collaborative, problem-solving, enabling, consultative, not just trying to assert a kind of hierarchical power.”
The Pew Research Center included a survey in its study A Paradox in Public Attitudes; Men or Women: Who’s the Better Leader. The study noted the issues that women seem to deal with more successfully when in leadership positions. As members of legislative bodies, women champion social issues such as education and healthcare, and are better at working out compromises.
As the Pew study suggests, if there were more women in the Florida House of Representatives (now only 27 out of 120 ) the irresponsible shutdown three days before the final day likely would not have happened. There would have been an intentional and committed conversation to resolve the issue of healthcare for poor Floridians. There would have been a sense of responsibility toward mentally ill residents and special-needs youth, and no one would have left without putting an end to the abuses in our prisons.
All of these issues now have to wait another year — at the cost of who knows how many lives.
The leadership of the House needs counseling, for sure, but these “boys” would likely behave better if they were in the company of more women. During the next election cycle, it might be time to put gender over party in selecting your representative.
Maribel Balbin is president of the League of Women Voters of Miami-Dade County, and a member of the LatinasRepresent Community of Practice. This post originally appeared as a letter to the editor in the Miami Herald.